01 / 6 / 2016 4.30pm
The term gypsy, roma and traveller (GRT) is a collective term which is used to describe a wide variety of cultural and ethnic groups. The use of umbrella terminology is sometimes necessary shorthand, but should not be taken to suggest that all these communities have common cultures and heritage or face the same challenges. We must avoid generalisations, positive or negative, and focus on barriers to equality.
Gypsies and travellers are a small but significant group who continue to suffer from poor health and low life expectancy. Less is known about the health of roma people in the UK, although some work around this is being done. Poor neonatal and maternal health, low child immunisation levels, mental health issues, diabetes and high levels of smoking are just some of the issues more commonly seen in the GRT community.
A significant barrier to improving the health outcomes of GRT communities is exclusion from accessing services. As well as suffering discrimination within society, GRT are more likely to have poor literacy skills, a lack of trust in agencies, and difficulties accessing services while travelling. Lack of knowledge and understanding among the wider population of GRT community culture and their specific needs, means that these communities continue to miss out on health solutions. Work is being done in a number of NHS organisations with the GRT community to improve their health outcomes.
Dr Vanessa Heaslip is a principal academic in the Department of Nursing and Clinical Sciences at Bournemouth University. Vanessa has a keen interest in exploring marginalised groups who experience inequity in accessing services. In her blog, learning lessons from gypsy roma travellers Vanessa talks about visiting GRT sites and meeting the families, and what she learned from the experience.
More information on the GRT and wider community can be found on the websites below.