Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
White, Friel, McLoughlin
Romani Studies
Irish Travellers: Community Participation in Primary Healthcare
Refereed Abstracts
Optional Fields
Irish Travellers are an indigenous minority ethnic group in Ireland who have a distinct shared culture including language, history and traditions and have been credited with being ‘a pioneering example of cultural coherence (Okely, 1997). However, Irish Travellers also have a long history of experiences of discrimination, exclusion and disadvantage in Irish society. In 2010, Donegal Travellers Project participated in the All Ireland Traveller Health Study, a participatory research project. The study counted over 40 000 Irish Travellers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. They experienced an unemployment rate of 84%, with 18.6% in need of appropriate accommodation provision. Many families were without access to running water and the child mortality rate 3.5 times higher than among the majority culture, while the suicide rate among Travellers was found to be seven times higher than the national average. Finally, almost 40% of 30 to 40 year old Travellers had primary education only. Recognising the complexity of the issues impacting on the Traveller community and the need for action to address the inequalities and the issues faced by Travellers Donegal Travellers Project identified a series of actions based on Traveller self-representation, leadership and management. The use of a community development and rights-based approach succeeded in in engaging a marginalised community in working collectively in identifying Traveller needs, creating positive changes and influencing the decision making process that impact on Traveller lives. This article will in particular focus on the Primary Health Care for Travellers Project which established a model for Traveller participation in the development of health services. Given the particular disadvantage faced by the Traveller community, the inequality in health outcomes they experience, their unique social and cultural identity and specific health needs, it is essential that Travellers are involved in the set-up, implementation and evaluation stages of Primary Health Care teams. Travellers work as Community Health Workers, allowing primary health care to be developed based on the Traveller community’s own values and perceptions to achieve positive outcomes with long-term effects.