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The European Commission and the Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health (EXPH) have launched a public consultation on the preliminary opinion on the ‘Access to health services in the European Union’. EPHA facilitated a joint submission of EPHA Roma Health Fellows and pro-Roma NGOs in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia participating in the ‘Together for Better Health’ consortium on the Roma relevant part of the preliminary opinion.

The European Commission and the Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health (EXPH) sought views on the opinion on ‘Access to health services in the European Union’. EPHA facilitated a joint submission by the EPHA Roma Health Fellows and pro-Roma NGOs in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia participating in the ‘Together for Better Health’ project.

These recommendations also refer to the ‘Better inclusion of the Roma community through civil society initiatives’ EESC project on access to healthcare.

Joint pro-Roma civil society contribution to the public consultation on access to health services in the EU (pdf)

Here are some of the key points:

  • Ensure that all children, in all situations (and despite their situations) have access to national vaccination programmes, paediatric care and regular health developmental check-ups;
  • Monitor the eye health of the Roma population and consider cost-efficient corrective measures to improve the lives Roma who have no access to eye examinations or the possibility of buying adequate glasses or contact lenses, as well as ensuring basic level dental care;
  • It is important to recognise that good health for the Roma community is more than just access to healthcare: Social inequalities in health arise because of inequalities in the conditions of daily life and the fundamental drivers that give rise to them, including poverty, living conditions and local environment, lack of resources and representation which worsen health inequalities. All public policy measures must try to reduce these inequalities;
  • Legislation should be clearer on the right of all people, regardless of residence, migration or citizenship status, to access health care services on equal terms.
  • This includes not creating barriers such as the obligation to report patients to migration authorities or persecuting vulnerable people in need of medical care; Provide systemic support to extend and improve Roma Health Mediator programmes, as experience in pilot projects has been positive with regard to reducing health inequalities. For example, see good examples presented by local pro-Roma NGOs in Slovakia (ACEC), Hungary (Partners Hungary Foundation), Romania (SASTIPEN, OvidiuRo), Bulgaria (NNHM, AMALIPE), and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (National Roma Centrum);
  • Provide support for medical caravans and mobile health units where medical doctors and students offer free, on-the-spot consultations for poor communities, undocumented migrants, Third Country Nationals (TCNs) with limited access to healthcare, including Roma people;
  • It is proposed that medical and nursing training facilities offer rotations/enhanced and incentivised training opportunities for staff to work in such specialist outreach services to improve familiarity with the needs of Roma, which will minimise discrimination and improve service delivery. Include culturally sensitive information on Roma communities and refugees during training for health workers.
  • At EU level, gather more extensive, accessible and higher quality data to improve access to health services and healthcare.

With the support of the Public Health Program of the Open Society Foundations, EPHA runs a Roma Health Fellowship Programme (2015-2016) to train and mentor Roma health EU advocates. The overarching goal of the programme is to empower Roma Health Advocates to develop the necessary tools to engage with European policy makers. The tailored assistance includes mentoring and training components on the key EU health processes. The fellowship also facilitates establishing partnerships and potential collaborations with relevant EU actors

Roma fellows who contributed to this document – are as follows:

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