Roma Community - Health
Many Roma people consider health a sensitive subject, not to be discussed with even the closest family members. If they work in health-related roles which are considered 'unclean', such as sexual health, Roma people can be ostracised from the rest of the community. It is important to be sensitive to Roma cultural norms and taboos when discussing health-related subjects. Mental health is rarely discussed openly amongst Roma community members, although it is starting to be acknowledged amongst younger members of the Roma community. And in a small discussion session with Roma adults we were able to carefully explore views on seeking treatment for anxiety and depression.
Understanding the UK Healthcare System
Roma individuals often find it challenging to navigate the UK healthcare system. This means that families may use emergency services until they are registered with doctors and dentists. There have been situations in which Roma families have been unable to register with GPs because they were unable to provide official documents, including proof of address and children’s immunisation records. In other cases, they have found that the closest surgery was not accepting new patients, and they did not understand that it was possible to register with a different surgery. Many schools have had to support families with the registration process at doctors and dentists, sometimes even accompanying them to consultations, and keeping notes of subsequent appointment dates and times for them.
In areas where Roma families live in larger numbers, health and social care providers are working hard to establish multiagency support structures for Roma communities so that they can access health care appropriately. Many service providers recognise that it can take time for Roma people to understand and access these services effectively, and to develop trusting relationships with professionals - particularly those in uniform. There are some examples of Roma people returning to home countries such as Romania with health problems, and possibly feeling more confident there in communicating with practitioners. And others may present with an illness or health care issue and then fail to keep follow-up appointments (possibly due to difficult work patterns or other day-to-day pressures), only to reappear several months later when their condition may have worsened.
In common with the indigenous population, health issues affecting the Roma population typically include diabetes and heart disease. Smoking is not uncommon for both men and women, low income can lead to generally poor diets and obesity and alcohol use are also significant issues. Women’s health is a particular area of concern as many Roma women do not feel comfortable discussing, and may not be permitted, to discuss sexual health, contraception or maternity care.
Roma Support Group Cultural Awareness Training information can be found here.
Improving Access of Roma to Health Care through the Decade of Roma Inclusion can be found here.
Mental Health Advocacy Evaluation Report can be found here.
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