An examination of unmet health needs as perceived by Roma in Central and Eastern Europe

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Abstract

Background: Roma comprise the largest ethnic minority in Europe, with an estimated population of 10–12 million. Roughly 50–60% of European Roma live in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In this study, we set out to quantify and explain disparities in unmet health needs for Roma populations relative to non-Roma populations, using self-reported access to health care. Methods: The United Nations Development Programme/World Bank/European Commission 2011 regional Roma survey was used for this study (12 countries, 8735 Roma and 4572 non-Roma living in same communities), with self-reported unmet health need (did not consult a doctor or health professional when they felt it was necessary in past year) as the primary outcome. Multivariable logistic regressions were performed to study the determinants of unmet health need for Roma populations relative to non-Roma populations. Covariates controlled for included sociodemographic characteristics, economic ability, health status and healthcare access. Results: We found in unadjusted models that Roma throughout Central and Eastern Europe, with the exception of Montenegro, are two to three times more likely to report having an unmet health need in the past 12 months than non-Roma living nearby. These disparities largely remain significant, even after adjusting for gender, age, marital status, employment status, education, number of chronic conditions, health insurance status and geographical proximity to medical providers. Conclusions: Controlling for conventional measures of access to medical care (i.e. geographic access to providers and health insurance) does not eliminate observed disparities in unmet need. Although improving funding and routine access to healthcare services for Roma is important in its own right as a means of increasing inclusion, there is a need for detailed assessments of the barriers that exist in each country, within and outside the health system, coupled with measures to implement existing commitments on Roma rights.

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