by and | April 28, 2022 | Newsletters

EPHA Newsletter | Continuing the Fight for Roma Health Equity in Europe

Complex and persistent issues require holistic and stubborn approaches. In our efforts to combat health inequalities in Europe, we combine targeting the underlying drivers of health (in)equity, such as through the social accountability approach; focusing on specific social determinants of health, like (racial) discrimination; exposing the consequences of these inequalities, e.g., the unequal impact of the pandemic; and zooming in on specific vulnerable and marginalised groups, including young children from disadvantaged communities and Roma.

This issue of our newsletter is dedicated to the Roma, a group estimated to number around six million within the European Union, who experience disproportionately large health inequalities. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency estimates that the average Roma life expectancy is about ten years lower than that of non-Roma. At the time of writing, we are almost two and a half years into the European Commission’s strategic framework for Roma equality, inclusion and participation until 2030. With the – much delayed – national strategies slowly trickling in over the past months, we provided the Commission with our recommendations, which were drafted in close collaboration with the EPHA-managed Roma Health Network (RHN). Although it is encouraging to see some quite elaborate strategies, we do observe that the majority has few, poorly defined, or insufficiently ambitious impact indicators. Clearly, our work is not yet concluded.

Being in between International Roma Day (8 April) and the 2022 Romani Week (16-20 May), the topic of Roma inclusion is very much alive. While waiting for European member states and accession countries to finalise their national strategies, we are working hard to raise awareness on the health inequalities between Roma and non-Roma, with a specific focus on mental health, housing, and the monitoring of inclusion policy. Moreover, this newsletter issue highlights a guest contribution from Alejandro Chuquitarco from the University of Alicante, who investigated environmental component of the national Roma strategies.

Two years into the pandemic and the recent events in Ukraine, attention for mental health is steadily growing. EPHA and the RHN have recognised this, and so as part of the 2022 Romani week we will host a capacity building event with a focus on mental health. It will take place on 19 May from 16:30 until 18:00 and will bring together several members of the Roma Health Network, who have developed a mental health model which they successfully implemented in North Macedonia. There will also be a contribution from our RHN member, Klimaka, who provided mental health services to Roma and recently went to the Romanian-Ukrainian border to provide mental health support and humanitarian aid for the refugees. Among all the chaos, it is important that we do not lose sight of internally displaced Roma, or Roma trying to leave Ukraine.

Neither should we lose sight of the learnings from how the EU has dealt with the response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. EPHA stresses that the recently established European Parliament’s special committee on COVID-19 is an opportunity to drive health equity forward, a chance to strengthen accountability and increase public trust, but only if developed transparently and together with civil society and public health organizations.

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