Closing the life expectancy gap of Roma in Europe

This study aims to present the overall picture of Roma health status and the Roma health gap in order to demonstrate that good Roma health outcomes require a holistic, cross sectoral approach.

The poor state of health in Roma communities is prevalent—and largely ignored—across Europe. Some Roma are completely excluded from health care, while most face hostility and discrimination within healthcare settings. Available literature on Roma and health agrees that:

  • Roma people suffer from poorer health and unhealthier living conditions compared to majority populations (Roma Health Gap)
  • Better data is needed to explain the Roma health gap and design better interventions to reduce this gap
  • The poor health of Roma is closely linked to the social determinants of health (OSF 2011).

Studies have consistently found that Roma health is worse than the health of the majority populations or other ethnic minority groups. Estimated life expectancy for Roma is consistently lower than corresponding national averages. Infant mortality among Roma is estimated to exceed national averages by several percentage points. Roma are less likely to be covered by health insurance. Roma do not appear to enjoy preventive health care on equal footing with non-Roma and instead are more likely to rely on emergency services. Academics and advocates identify inadequate living conditions, poverty, limited education, and pervasive discrimination against Roma by health care professionals and the public as the key reasons for the poor health of Roma (Abdikeeva, Covaci 2017).

Like all Europeans, Roma represent patients, caregivers, and families. Yet on average, Roma will die ten – fifteen years earlier than most Europeans. Roma are less likely to be vaccinated, have fewer opportunities for good nutrition, and experience higher rates of illness. In some countries, six times as many of Roma infants do not make it to childhood. If they do, they will have experienced more infections and diseases than other groups living in similar economic conditions (SAITOVIC 2014).

The purpose of this paper is to provide an evidence-based literature review on the Roma life expectancy gap, and the following indicators:

  • Life expectancy gap between Roma and non-Roma
  • Roma children and infant mortality
  • Socio-economic Determinants of life expectancy

Marius Tudor

Roma Health Project Manager

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