Major new research to tackle Roma health inequalities

Published: 26 February 2024 at 10:00

Nurse looking after a patient

£1.1million project to invest in training and support, building capacity, and skills

A new £1.1m research project involving researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) is set to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities for Roma communities across the UK. 

Roma populations experience some of the poorest health and wellbeing outcomes, including significantly lower life expectancy of 10 or more years below the national average, as well as a higher prevalence of long-term chronic conditions and increased social exclusion. Poorer health can result from barriers and challenges when accessing physical, social, and cultural support. 

The new three-year project will work in partnership with community groups of Roma people now living in the UK, civil society organisations and public authorities in Luton, Peterborough and Glasgow.

Including co-researchers from Roma communities, the research will use innovative visual and creative methods to help identify barriers faced by Roma people in accessing healthcare and other services in mid to later life. The project will then co-design new place-based 'Integrated Hubs' to better connect Roma people with culturally appropriate health, wellbeing and community resources which build upon existing expertise and assets within the community. 

Margaret Greenfields, Professor of Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“Roma communities fall behind the rest of the UK in areas such as life expectancy and health outcomes, and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“We will be working with a range of partners from community organisations, academia and health providers to identify how we can ensure Roma people obtain the  best, and most culturally competent health care and access to services they need to support ageing well.

“To do this, we need to understand the barriers to accessing these resources within the communities, and this is why we are adapting an inclusive, community-centred approach, using arts-based practices including dance, photography and storytelling, as well as traditional social science methods, to work collaboratively to make a difference.”

The multidisciplinary team is led by Heriot-Watt University and includes the Roma Support Group, Luton Roma Trust, Peterborough-based Compas, and Community Renewal Trust’s Rom Romeha (which means “for Roma by Roma”) in Govanhill, Glasgow, as well as academics from ARU, Coventry and Dundee universities.

Petr Torak, Chief Executive Officer of Peterborough-based Compas, said:

“Some of the areas where the Roma community fare worse than the general population are obesity levels and mortality of relatively young people. 

“For years, Compas has been working with NHS and other health professionals to increase awareness amongst Roma communities about healthy diet and the dangers of substance misuse. For this reason, we are looking forward to being part of this research project that will raise awareness even more and will also help health care professionals to work more effectively with the Roma community.”

Funding for the research is led by provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in collaboration with BBSRC, ESRC, MRC and NERC, all part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Additional funding is from UKRI’s Building a Secure and Resilient World, and Creating Opportunities, Improving Outcomes strategic themes and the programme is run in partnership with the National Centre for Creative Health.