For the first time since 2008, Roma health was high on the agenda of the European Roma Platform, which was organised for the 12th time in Brussels by the European Commission on 8-9 October. Health was one of two priority themes of the platform, as well as the topic of one of the parallel workshops, with participants focusing on how to improve health outcomes and reduce the 10-year gap in life expectancy between Roma and non-Roma. As EPHA has been advocating for many years for health to be prioritised in the Roma framework, we were pleased to see the outcome of our efforts in the Platform agenda and to have the opportunity to contribute to its final form. We were also one of the European level stakeholders advising the European Commission on Roma health and the close links between poor Roma health and inadequate housing.
Almost 250 participants from national governments, the EU, international organizations and Roma civil society representatives came together at the event where also for the first time, representatives from traditional Roma communities at grassroots level took part and were able to share their experiences directly and question how urgently the European institutions are addressing the challenges they face. Marius Tudor, EPHA Project Manager on Roma Health and Early Childhood Development moderated the second, closing plenary session, while EPHA Roma Health Fellow Marcela Adamova was one of the keynote speakers in the workshop on health.
Health also featured in the workshop on housing – the second priority theme of the platform – which highlighted the effects on health of Roma from the poor housing conditions which they experience. Common to the discussions of both themes is the way in which poor Roma health and housing conditions are both an outcome and driver of social exclusion. EPHA member organisation FEANTSA, (the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless) also participated in this workshop, calling for measures to tackle dysfunctional housing markets and the lack of affordable housing which also is a barrier to Roma inclusion.
A key highlight for EPHA was the recognition of Roma health as a European public health challenge which needs coordinated answers. The recent Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) report and evaluation by the European Commission of the current EU Roma Framework have demonstrated how little progress in the area of health has been achieved, with a few indicators even falling behind. Roma integration is another example of social and fundamental rights policy which needs a health in all policies approach as well as coordinated, European action to improve population health.
Reported as being one of the most participatory meetings of the Roma Platform, all stakeholders working to improve the lives of Roma in Europe now wait to see how far the results of their discussions are reflected in the debates on the priorities and vision for the EU after 2020, due to come to a conclusion in the next few months, as the EU prepares for the European Parliament elections and a new mandate for the European Commission.
Roma Health Project Manager