The key to better integrating Romas in society is not through aids, but through the improvement of education and employment opportunities – this was one of the conclusions of a conference held at the University of Debrecen.
Eight million Romas live in the European countries where delegates came from to participate in the three-day conference titled “Research related to the health status of the Romas in East-Central Europe,” held at the Faculty of Public Health of the University of Debrecen. At the event of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Office for Europe and the Social Vulnerability and Health WHO Collaborating Centre, which started on 1 June, the experts emphasised that even though the countries are different, the problems are common among them.
“The Ministry of Health alone cannot solve the problems of the Roma population: education and employment are linked with health status, and so its improvement is only possible with the cooperation of all sectors concerned,” said Piroska Östlin
, director of health policy at WHO’s Regional Office for Europe.
The majority of Europe’s Roma population, estimated around twelve million, live in Eastern, Central and Southern European countries, and therefore, it is important that Bulgarian, Croatian, Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, Spanish and Slovak researchers be given a chance to discuss the problems affecting the population of each of these countries. As mentioned at the conference, the health status of the Romas is critical: their average life expectancy is ten years shorter than among the general population.
The Faculty of Public Health of the University of Debrecen is unique in that the health behaviour survey of the Roma population was carried out twice in the Decade of Roma Inclusion.
“In 2004 and then in late 2015, the analyses were carried out with the help of the ethnic minority self-governments, and the results show that, in the opinion of the Romas, their employment and financial status improved, while the discrimination they face in the healthcare system decreased in one decade. The percentage of smokers in the Roma population is high, around 70%, and only 12% of pregnant women give up smoking during their pregnancy. The proportion of smokers decreased in one decade; however, while in 2004 the proportion of those regularly consuming alcohol was higher in the general population, in ten years’ time this has shifted in the direction of the Roma population,” said Róza Ádány
, head of the Social Vulnerability and Health Collaborating Centre.