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Health mediation among Roma minorities in Bulgaria is a good practice that can be beneficial in other EU Member States

06 January 2017 - On the 8th of December 2016, in Sofia, the Bulgarian National Network of Health Mediators (NNMH) organized the 10th meeting within the framework of the project “Initiative for Health and Immunoprophylaxis”. The project was launched in 2012 and is implemented in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Representatives from the Ministries of Health, Labour and Social Policy, and various medical associations, regional health authorities, civil society organizations, international organizations, GlaxoSmithKline and health mediators took part in the meeting. IOM, as a longstanding partner of the NNMH was invited to attend the meeting. The main objective of this event was to discuss the continuation of the health mediation programme in Bulgaria through regional and national projects, as well as the work of the Roma health mediators among vulnerable communities across the country. The meeting focused on the exchange of experiences and good practices in terms of collaboration between the Roma health mediators, authorities and health personnel with the goal of improving the quality of and access to health care and services.

In an interview with the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) following the meeting, IOM MHD RO Brussels’ Mariya Samuilova spoke of the Roma Health Mediators Pilot Intervention as one of the successes of the IOM/EC EQUI-HEALTH action. Within its framework IOM is supporting the NNHM’s Roma health mediators’ initiative in improving access to health services in Bulgaria. In 2016, the NNHM had deployed 195 Roma health mediators in 113 municipalities across the country. Ms. Samuilova explained that while there are other similar initiatives in Belgium, Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Spain, they are often implemented on a local level, and in other EU Member States the majority of health mediation interventions focus on migrants, the one in Bulgaria is unique as it is institutionalized (mediators have formal training and are employed by municipalities), the NNHM is supporting and monitoring the work, and health mediation is implemented through municipalities across the entire territory of the country.

Sabire Ramadan, a Roma health mediator in the Municipality Septemvri, informed the BNR that the municipality in which she lives and works has a population of 27,000 people out of which 10,000 are Roma. When she is informed by a doctor that one child has missed their immunization appointment, she goes and finds this child. According to her, every child is important; she is very proud of being a part of this initiative.

Dr. Angel Kunchev, the Chief State Health Inspector in Bulgaria, asserted that the Roma health mediators are essential in providing information to vulnerable groups, and often they are called to support Roma communities in other sectors, such as social services and labour, where the needs are also great but there are no mediators.

Petar Tsvetanov, one of the health mediators and current Chairman of the Executive Council of the NNMH told BNR: “Among a population where the social status is quite weak, health is not a top priority as most families are more concerned about their physical survival. This is where the work of the Roma health mediators comes in – to try to change people’s attitude towards giving more importance and attention to their health.”

For more information on the interview:
For more information on the NNHM:

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