New £1.1million research project improve health inequalities in Luton's Roma community

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The town is among three areas that the project will focus on

A new £1,100,000 research university project is set to improve and reduce health inequalities in Roma communities, with a spotlight on Luton’s population.

The three-year project led by Heriot-Watt University, a research university based in Edinburgh, will work in partnership with Roma people, public authorities and civil organisations in Luton, Peterborough and Glasgow.

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Roma populations experience some of the poorest health and wellbeing outcomes, with a significantly lower life expectancy of “10 or more years below the national average”. They can also “experience higher prevalence of long-term chronic conditions and increased social exclusion”, the university said.

Roma community at the Luton Festival in 2023. Picture: Luton Roma TrustRoma community at the Luton Festival in 2023. Picture: Luton Roma Trust
Roma community at the Luton Festival in 2023. Picture: Luton Roma Trust

The research will identify barriers faced by Roma people when accessing healthcare and other services. From this, the project will co-design 'Integrated Hubs' to connect Roma people with culturally appropriate health, wellbeing and community resources.

Crina Morteanu from the Luton Roma Trust said: “As a grassroots organisation, having worked with the Roma for more than ten years, we are delighted to be part of this project which is aimed at tackling one of the most critical issues that Roma face - access to health.

"Many Roma in Luton and the UK generally, face multiple barriers in their access to health. This project will tackle those barriers which, in return, will result in appropriate solutions and ultimately improving their quality of life.”

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Dr Ryan Woolrych, director of the Urban Institute at Heriot-Watt University, said: "This research is urgently needed as public health bodies and government reports continue to evidence the inequalities faced by Roma people living in the UK today which is severely impacting life expectancies and creating growing social exclusion.

“There is a significant evidence gap in terms of exploring what it means to age within Roma communities and the interventions needed to ensure healthy and active ageing.”

The team leading the research include the Roma Support Group, Luton Roma Trust, Compas and Community Renewal Trust’s Rom Romeha (meaning for Roma by Roma) in Govanhill, as well as expertise from Coventry University, Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Dundee.

The university added: “The research builds on established relationships with Roma communities, public authorities and health providers across the case study areas to give Roma people a voice in developing services that respect their dignity.”