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Discrimination and Health Effects


The welfare of the Roma population has been an interest of case studies over the recent years. It has been estimated that 12-15million (Program, Open Society Institute Network Public Health, 2005)Roma minorities live in Europe. This has reflected decades of Roma Inclusion’ (2005-15), harmonizing with the entry of several Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries into the European Union.  The Roma minorities within the CEE countries are subjected to poor living conditions. They live in poor regions with lack or no access to education (Centre for Documentation and Research, 1994).

Historically, the Roma have been perceived and often discriminated as a source of contamination in Central and Eastern European countries (Martin McKee, 2004). This was a result of the health literacy of the Roma population which focused on infectious diseases, and genetic disorders as the main caused of Roma health differences (Steve Hajioff). Although many studies have failed to state the extent of the Roma inequalities and its association to health (Jeremiah A. Barondess, 1998), multiple data have indicated that the Roma population are limited to health literacy and access to medical care. Among most of the population in Central, and Eastern Europe, it is estimated that the Roma has 10 years of life expectancy (Braham M, 1993). It was concluded by a rare study which was conducted in 1989, that in Czechoslovakia, the Roma men and women have a life span of 12.1 and 14.4 years lower than the country’s entire population (Ferák V, 1987).

Recent studies have proven that there is an increased rate of chronic diseases and related risk factors compared to most population among the Roma minorities. High levels of insulin, hypertension and obesity were found among the Roma’s than the majority population in Slovakia. Due to the lifestyle and low level of education among the young Roma population, there is a higher prevalence rate of cardiovascular diseases risk factors and metabolic syndrome (Krajcovicova-Kudlackova M, 2004).

Studies have shown a decrease in Vitamin C, and other antioxidant vitamins and higher levels of inadequate nutrition, and smoking among the Roma minority groups in Czech (Jan Dejmek, 2013) and Slovakia republics (Philipa Mladovsky, 2007). The prevalence of underweight among the Roma population was high than that of the entire population in Croatia (Domagoj Šegregur, 2017). The sanitary conditions pose to be a policy objective and initiatives to improve sanitation of the Roma society. Policies on Roma health should be multi-sectoral, considering the economic, social and cultural crisis. The main determinants of inequalities in health status among the Roma population in Bulgari, Romania and Hungary were education and wealth. The study indicated that the Roma population experienced specific health inequalities after determining for education, expenditure and wealth.

The Romanian society has one of the worst cases of social stigma in Europe. This resulted from the reluctance and refusal of important public personalities of Romani origin to declare their membership or links to Romania’s Romani minority (Valeriu Nicolae and Hannah Slavik, 2003). Even though the Roma population has the biggest minority groups in Europe, they face extreme negligence and racism. Discrimination among the Roma population started from the 16th century of nationalism, which rendered them one of the most socially and financially excluded groups in Europe (Wilkin A, Derrington C, Foster B, 2009).

The significance of identifying the health inequalities among Roma and Non-Roma communities is reflected by a huge difference in their hygienic lifestyle (Hajioff S, 2000). According to WHO, sanitation is the provision of facilities and services for the safe removal of human faeces (WHO, 2010). Different backgrounds in cultures play a significant role in health inequalities. For example; since the Roma population are situated in poorer regions, with low access to medical care, the non-Roma are more likely to perform a chronic illness diagnosis just simply because they have access to medical care than the Roma. 


According to a US study, the nature of racial prejudice changes over time in such a way that experience of discrimination maybe hard to recognize. Davidio and Gaertner defined “aversive racism”, as people characterized by “endorse egalitarian values, who consider themselves as non-prejudiced, yet discriminate in a rationalized way. Thus, making it hard to measure the health effects (Dovidio JF, Gaertner S, 2000).

The Forth National Survey of Ethnic Minorities discovered an association between racial discrimination experience, perceptions of racial harassment, and different health risks across ethnic groups (Cooper RS, 1993). The study shows that racial discrimination experience against minority groups were independently linked to the likelihood of reporting fair or poor health, and the socioeconomic effects on occupational class which includes; economic disadvantage, the feeling of low self-esteem or devalued, minor status group, and personal insult and stress of being a victim of racism (Kaufman JS, 1998).

Although, data have shown that socioeconomic inequalities cannot explain the ethnic inequalities in health, it has proven that it contributes to health inequalities among different ethnic groups across different countries. Forth National Survey of Ethnic Minorities have illustrated that ethnic differences differed from each ethnic group. Example, the minority people had a smaller income compared to the whites (James Y. Nazroo and Saffron Karlsen, 1997).  Similar study in the US, according to Oliver and Shapiro, white people have more income than black peoples and, the black are most likely to remain in that situation among those below the poverty line (James SA, 1987). Black people are unlikely to own houses due to their low level of wealth (Melvin L, 1997).

Studies conducted in the US have indicated the relationship between self-reported experiences of racial discrimination and different health outcomes such as, hypertension, psychological distress, poorer self-rated health, and days spent ill in bed (Krieger N, 1990).
According to the National Survey of Ethnic Minorities in the UK, ethnic inequalities increase with age, with slight differences in younger age, and huge differences surfacing from mid-30s and above (Nazroo J, 2001). Increase in health inequalities among ethnic minorities at a certain age reflects on the range of health risks over the life span, and long-term outcomes of exposure to health hazards at an early age.



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