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Roma community in poorer health than the rest of Spain

A research team from the University of Alicante leads a national study on health status, lifestyle and access to health services in the Roma community


Part of the team of experts participating in the Roma Health Survey (from left to right): Diana Gil-González, Nicolás Jiménez González, 

Mª del Carmen Albert Guardiola, Daniel La Parra Casado, Carmen Vives-Cases, and Rodolfo Martínez Gras


Gitanos_saludAlicante. Monday, 6 February 2017

The worse the socioeconomic situation of a social group, the worse its health status is. In fact, there are important inequalities, with the Roma population occupying the most disadvantaged position in Spain. This is the main conclusion drawn by the last National Survey on the Roma Population Health Status (2014) conducted by a University of Alicante research team. The final report, recently funded and  recently published by the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Gender Equality,  compares the data collected with the Spanish population through the National Health Survey 2011-2012, and the National Health Survey on Roma Population made in 2006.

Coordinated by UA Dr. in Sociology and director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Social Inclusion and Health –  Interuniversity Institute for Social Development and Peace-  Daniel La Parra, the report analyses the health status of the Roma population, health problems, limitation of the main activity, overweight and obesity, accidents, eye and hearing health, oral health, tobacco and alcohol consumption, food, physical activity and use of health services.

In the eight years that have elapsed since the situation was observed in 2006, the study confirms that "the health status of the Roma population is comparatively worse than that of the groups with the worst socio-economic situation in the Spanish population, especially in health status, regular activity limitations, chronic health problems, oral health and visual health”. Particularly, 65.3% of Roma men and 55.5% of Roma women indicate that their health status is good or very good, compared to 77.7% and 70.4%, respectively, in the whole Spanish population

Inequalities are greater when it comes to access to health services that are not covered by the public system such as the dental health or optometric check-ups. This is why the use of prescription glasses and contact lenses is less frequent in the Roma community in the general population (33.0% compared to 53.4% in men and 31.3% compared to 63.6% in women).

On the other hand, the report reveals differences in lifestyle. As an example, daily consumption of tobacco in the case of Roma women is lower than in the overall female population in Spain (16.7% vs. 21.7%) and higher in Roma men (54.2% % versus 28.3%). n the case of alcohol consumption reported in the last two weeks, there is evidence of lower consumption in men and women of the Roma community than in the whole population of Spain: from 50.6% to 64.6 % in men and from 19.1% to 38.9% in women. However, within dietary habits, daily consumption of fresh fruit is less frequent in the Roma community than in the general population: 39.1% in Roma men as opposed to 56.1%, and 40, 5% in Roma women versus 63.1%.

Regarding the use of health services such as general practitioners, irrespective of gender or age, the Roma population attend them more frequently than the rest of the Spanish population. In some specific services, and despite low response in surveys, the frequency of visits to gynecology and the performance of mammograms and cytologies is lower among Roma women than among women in the general population. Actually, this trend has been strengthened as we compare it to the 2006 survey, since the number of Roma women who have never attended a gynecological visit has decreased from 24.4% to 17.3%.

The report, other than seeing progress, stagnation and setbacks, provides updated information to assess and plan needed interventions to achieve health equity within the framework of the National Strategy for Social Inclusion of the Roma population in Spain 2012- 2020. "It is time to run new, more effective, more equitable policies at all levels of governance - locally, regionally, nationally and Europe-wide - to improve the health of the entire population and reduce the inequity gap," Daniel La Parra stated.



In order to carry out the Health Survey of the Roma population 2014, a total of 1167 adult Roma people have been interviewed. The sample was distributed in three large age groups - 15 to 34 years, 35 to 54 years and 55 and over - with the same number of cases between women and men due to the lack of reliable demographic information on the structure of age and sex of the Roma population in Spain.

Led by UA PhD in Sociology and Professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health Diana Gil, the study has been funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and the University of Alicante through the calls for the R&D+i National Plan 2013-2015 (FEDER Funds) by the Carlos III Health Institute.


Reference: Ministry of Health, Social Services and Gender Equality Directorate General for Public Health, Quality Assurance and Innovation 2nd National Survey on Health Status on Roma Population, 2014. Madrid, 2016.


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