Back to projects
2012 / Education

Healthy Communities – advocacy

Implementation period: December 2011 – January 2013
Healthy Communities ‒ Advocacy is an extension of the Healthy Communities project. Currently, there is no legislation in the Slovak Republic supporting the implementation of activities and public policies addressing the health issues faced by Roma settlements.
The project aims to support all the activities that promote and strengthen the health education assistant position as a standard profession, and to gain the support of other partners wiling to encourage and promote the goals of this project.
Based on the given situation, the ACEC project team has supported the decision by the healthcare assistants and the coordinators’ proposal to establish an independent civic association Field Healthcare Assistant Association. As such, the civic association represents a tool of advocacy. Through this legal form, the health mediators as well as the inhabitants of the Roma settlements will be able to actively participate in solving the issue of health and health education for the socially disadvantaged groups. The statutes of the FHAA include four priority areas: health protection and support, health education, promotion and awareness, research.
To strengthen the advocacy activities, ACEC has created a platform institutionalized as an Disadvantaged Groups Health Support Association. The main goal of this activity is to “join forces” with organizations and institutions focused on improving the health of inhabitants living in segregated Roma settlements. In the past, organisations have attempted to improve the health of the Roma separately, but without any significant success. All organizations willing to promote the systematization of programs focused on the health of disadvantaged groups may join this civic association as its members. During negotiations with state representatives, the members of the civic association act as one and earn more respect. The ambition of this association is to actively participate in drawing up the precautions promoting the health of disadvantaged groups. The Field Healthcare Assistant Association is the member of this civic association as well.
The Healthy Communities Advocacy project was set up and implemented on the basis of the long-term Healthy Communities project, which is the largest and longest running project focused on improving the health of the Roma population and education and health care in segregated Roma settlements in Slovakia. The long-term project, and also experience from foreign countries (BUL, ROM) brings new ideas on how to improve legislation and the use of information and experience that can be systematised and applied in practice.
Currently in the Slovak Republic there is no legislation that supports the implementation of activities and public policies that address the issue of the health of Roma settlements. For this reason, main objective was and still is the systematic health education program in Roma communities throughout Slovakia, encouraging the use of human resources directly from segregated communities and enabling them to become employed, to implement activities beneficial to the community and include the position of assistant health education in community centre standards.
The aim of the project was all project activities promoting and strengthening the position of health assistant education as a standard job and to earn other partners for this purpose who would also support and actively cooperate in its enforcement.
The project activities were carried out in the following areas: 1) Fieldwork and information collection 2) Roundtable meetings 3) Recommendations – declaration of the requirement and verified approaches, 4) public presentation of the project results and recommendations for public policy at a press conference.
In the project Health Mediators implement outreach activities in Roma settlements and actively cooperate with doctors and systematically collect data on activities in three catchment areas in eastern Slovakia (Kežmarok and Poprad, Prešov and Michalovce)
Based on the results of the research 10 health mediators in the five months made 7881 visits to clients, 128 hospital visits, 536 contacted a doctor in on behalf of clients and 766 awareness-raising activities were carried out in 305 families and group educational activities with youths.
Within the project ACEC has supported the decisions made by Health Assistants and the coordinators’ proposal to establish an independent civic association. The civic association will conduct, manage and make decisions on important matters regarding health mediators and coordinators in the field. The aim of this initiative is to create a space for communication amongst socially disadvantaged groups and the involvement of the majority of members of socially disadvantaged groups in the process of creating, designing and commenting on recommendations and processes of change concerning the bad living situation and position in society faced by the Roma. The civic Association as a tool for advocacy will actively participate in the process of dealing with health and health care for disadvantaged groups. The name of the civic association is theField Healthcare Assistant Association. CA reps took part in the roundtable meetings and also at Slovak Health Ministry meetings.
Due to the strengthening of advocacy activities, ACEC has created a platform that is institutionalised as an interest group. The Platform to promote the health of disadvantaged groups is specific in that it brings together legal persons, i.e. organisations, companies and institutions – according to official Interior Ministry characteristics it may take the form of associated legal entities used for the implementation of their common interests. The purpose of this initiative is to “join forces” with organisations and institutions with the main objective of improving the health of citizens in segregated Roma settlements. In the past, the issue of the health of disadvantaged groups was addressed by organisations independently, however without and significant success. Membership in the association is open to all organisations wishing to promote systematic programs for the health of disadvantaged groups. Such a unified umbrella system exits in negotiations with state actors and together we have more respect. The ambition of this Association is to actively cooperate and participate in the shaping of measures for the health of disadvantaged groups. The FHAA features four priority areas within its statutes: The safeguarding and promotion of health, education for health, promotion and education and research activities.
To date some 14 Platform member meetings have been held to promote the health of disadvantaged groups, involving representatives from the following organisations and institutions:
The Association for Culture, Education and Communication (ACEC), The Field Healthcare Assistant Association – The FHAA, The Ethnicity and Culture Research Centre (CVEK), GlaxoSmithKline, The Office of the World Health Organisation in Slovakia, The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (The Ministry of Labour), the Ministry of Health , the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Finance, the Open Society Foundation (OSF), community centre collective, the general practitioners Slovakia association, Union Health Insurance, the Office of the Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities, the public Health Office.
Based on the operation of the project and its active implementation we have managed to create a collaborative network of organisations, companies and institutions that actively deal with issues of health of disadvantaged groups in Slovakia. We have managed to attract the interest of the Ministry of Health (MoH) on this topic, evidenced by the implementation of two roundtable meetings and one short meeting at the Ministry of Health.
In June a nationwide program is set to be launched in support of health in disadvantaged communities, featuring 108 health mediators and 12 coordinators by the end of 2013.
Successful implementation of the project came about thanks to the financial support of Roma Health Program by the Open Society Foundation in Budapest and the Open Society Foundation in Bratislava – who also supported the project by actively participating in roundtable meetings with their proposals, comments and suggestions.