29. 05. 2015
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Conference: Improvement of Health in Disadvantaged Communities

May 29, 2015
Kino Tatran, Poprad, Slovakia

Healthy Communities is an exceptional project. Medical experts met Health Mediators in Poprad, Slovakia.

On Friday, May 29, the conference Improvement of Health in Disadvantaged Communities took place in Poprad under auspices of Minister of Health of Slovak Republic Viliam Cislak.

The conference participants were welcomed by the journalist and publicist Jarmila Vanova, who opened the conference saying: “The results of the current heavily project oriented times related to Roma issue placed us in the position of skeptics. However, there are some exceptions. The example could be Healthy Communities project that took a very good approach.  Bottom-up approach. It gave Roma very strong integration tool: work. Project is currently implemented in 195 locations and employs 229 people. In this project, Roma are not statistics and so-called “trained monkeys” of others. They are creators, implementers, engine driving the change- they are an active and deciding component of the project. Project not only gives people work; it gives them the opportunity to grow, develop, gain confidence and dignity. It also socializes and builds communication skills. I saw the transformation of Roma involved in the project and their impact in the field. The question is- why is Healthy Communities project so successful? Because it is not in hands of municipalities, because they perceive Roma related projects only as a source of income, not a tool for improvement.”

The event was interesting. It makes sense for us all to meet, talk, and present our results to our international partners.“ said Richard Koky, Committee Chairman for the Platform for Support of Health of Disadvantaged Groups (PSHDG). He was the most intrigued by the opening speech of Ivan Poprocky from the Institute of Health Policy of the Ministry of Health. “It made me happy to hear that the profession of Health Mediators should be recognized as a part of the state system.” said Koky.

Head of the Department of Pediatric Tuberculosis at the Šrobár Institute of Pediatric Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases in Dolny Smokovec, Dr. Martina Miskovska emphasized that 80% of their child patients live in Roma communities. “We have to examine everyone who came in contact with the infected person. When there is a suspicion of being infected, at least three doctor visits are necessary.” she explained.  She added that this is why the Health Mediators are so important. They help doctors not only to identify the outbreak zones, but they also help with treatment.

Anthropologist of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Tomáš Hrustič hosted an expert discussion between Health Mediators and Coordinators of Health Mediators about their experiences from the field. Hrustič has been working with the topic of Roma participation for a long time; he also lived in the Roma settlement in Jarovnice for several months. “It has been confirmed that in similar projects it is beneficial to employ people directly from the given localities and pay attention to their education. Healthy Communities is a project like no other in Slovakia.” Hrustič concluded.

Ľubomíra Slušná–Franz- President of the Association for Culture, Education and Communication, Michal Kubo- Director of Healthy Communities NPO, Monika Palušková- President of the Society of General Practitioners in Slovakia (SVLS), Darina Sedláková- Head of the World Health Organization in Slovakia, Peter Marko- Doctor from Veľká Lomnica and anthropologist Andrej Belák from Faculty of Medicine of Pavol Jozef Šafárik University also presented at the conference among other experts.

Projects on Health Mediation are also being implemented abroad. However, nowhere else they have reached the extent and effectiveness of Healthy Communities. The international partners who presented at the conference included Paul van Hoof- Director of European Government Affairs GlaxoSmithKline, Vanya Ivanova- National Network of Health Mediators (Bulgaria), Arina Ciuncan- Asociatia OvidiuRo (Romania). “Congratulations to achieving such high level of cooperation with Roma, municipalities, and most of all- with state partners.”Éva Déak from Partners Hungary expressed her appreciation.

Work of Health Mediators sets an example of work with segregated Roma communities also for other countries:

• Healthy Communities project fulfills 95% of goals set in the Strategy of Slovak Republic for Roma integration until 2020, part Health
• Ministry of Health will work towards Healthy Communities project remained under its competency. Ministry will consider recognizing Health Mediators as an official occupation.
• The quality of Healthy Communities was growing during the whole duration of the project. It is important that the services of Health Mediators are not available only for Roma but for all disadvantaged groups.
• Thanks to the Healthy Communities there is a notable decrease in occurrence of infectious diseases and 100% vaccination in project localities. We also expect improvement of public health, hygiene in the settlements, and early detection and treatment of common diseases
• Strengthening of human resources is among the main goals for the upcoming period. There will be two new selection procedures for new employees. We plan to hold 88 workshops and trainings with experts on top of the regular ones already in place.
• Health Mediators declared a need of higher work identification, i.e. through a uniform which would help with better recognition from both institutions and clients. They also expressed a need for more education in the area of health and better cooperation with other health workers in the field- all with a goal of becoming more professional.
• Cooperation is important so that Health Mediators could become an education organization. Important is also motivation of people towards the education and cooperation with teachers or medical students and other helping professions in the field.

These are the main conclusions of the conference Improvement of Health in Disadvantaged Communities that took place in Poprad, Slovakia. The conference was organized by the Platform for Support of Health of Disadvantaged Groups in cooperation with Ministry of Health of Slovak Republic and the World Health Organization Country Office in Slovakia.

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