Roma Health Mediators Continue Working

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Jul2015ZM2Health mediators in Serbia, women that assist Roma women and men with maintaining and improving their health status and communication with the health care, will continue their engagement. Signing a memo of collaboration between the Ministry of Healthcare, Telenor andUNICEF will provide for continuing of collaboration started in 2008.

In Serbia, there are 140,408 Roma people living in unhygienic settlements, aka slums. Children make 50,754 of them, while another 46,453 are women. Continuing the Connecting project will facilitate establishing an improved, more efficient communication between the local communities, the Roma population, the health mediators working with them and the healthcare. In 2008, the Ministry of Healthcare initiated the health mediators’ project engaging women from grassroots communities in health promotion of the Roma population by going to Roma settlements and educating the people on the necessity of raising their awareness about health, the significance of vaccination, proper diet and hygiene. 

‘Roma health mediators should provide for a better insight of primary healthcare units into the state of affairs in Roma settlements, educating their residents on the significance of timely addressing a local GP. Health mediators are no doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, lawyers or judges. They are Romani-speaking women and mothers linking healthcare with the Roma,’ said Zlatibor Loncar, MD, PhD, Minister of Healthcare, on the occasion of signing the memo.

UNICEF and socially responsible companies joined the Connecting project in order to organize additional trainings and provide computers and mobile phones and thus facilitate establishment of a record-keeping and monitoring system of the Roma children’s and families’ health status, as well as grassroots service provision.

‘By 2015, the Ministry of Healthcare engaged 57 part-time health mediators in 60 municipalities in Serbia, their salary being provided from the national budget,’ said Loncar.

In just a few years, health mediators had a major influence on improvements in the lives of Roma families. Not only did the Roma start addressing the primary health care units more often, resulting also in the decrease of mortality of children in Roma settlements, but the work of health mediators helped many Roma families with the exercise of many other of their rights. The Connecting project is an example of excellent collaboration of the state, civic and corporative sectors. Health mediators are employed with the primary health care units and trained to advise Roma families on the disease prevention and treatment opportunities, as well as vaccination and exercise of all their rights in the field of healthcare. The Ministry reported that health mediators in Roma settlements helped with each child getting access to a chosen pediatrician, as well as with increasing the number of pregnant women using pre- and post-natal healthcare services. They should also take credit for providing health care and ID cards for Roma women and men, along with the increased number of children from Roma settlements enrolling school.

Source: Ministry of Healthcare website

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