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Study focuses on health needs of Travellers

Resource type: News

Irish Examiner |

by Sarah Stack A PIONEERING all-island study of the health needs of up to 40,000 Travellers begins today. About 400 members of the community have been trained as researchers for the census-type survey, which is the first of its kind in the world. The results will assess the health of Travellers and the factors associated with it, including culture, lifestyle, socio-economic circumstances and the impact of current health services. UCD professor Cecily Kelleher, who is leading the research, said the study is for, with, and by Travellers. “We hope quite literally to give Travellers themselves a voice in their future health. We have had over a year of detailed consultation and planning to get to the fieldwork stage and now have a really remarkable electronic questionnaire to ensure the best quality information can be collected with nearly 10,000 families across the country.” In recent months Traveller organisations have been working with communities about the importance of the study. Over the next six weeks the newly-trained researchers will visit Travellers all over the country and, with laptops and online questionnaires, collect data related to their health status. The Traveller Health research project, Our Geels, is led by the UCD school of public health and population science, in collaboration with DCU school of nursing. The findings from the study, jointly funded by the Department ‘of Health and Children, Health Service Executive and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland, and with the support of Traveller organisations and Fas, will provide a framework for policy and practice in relation to Traveller health. Health Minister Mary Harney said the study was the culmination of considerable work undertaken in consultation with Traveller organisations, health service providers and other interest groups. Pavee Point, the national Traveller organisation, welcomed the study which will concentrate on the number of Travellers, their living conditions, the size of families, and issues which affect their quality of life. Director Ronnie Fay said: ‘Traveller researchers, mostly women, will work throughout the winter to meet families and gather data. “This vital and tough work will provide the evidence necessary for a hard look at the healthcare needs of Travellers, for the first time in more than 21 years.” Missy Collins, a Traveller woman who sits on the National Traveller Health Advisory Committee, said they will finally have real research and evidence on the health status of the community. “I’m urging Travellers everywhere to take part in this study and help us build up the information we can take to the people who run the health service, to make sure that money set aside for Traveller health is spent wisely to improve the lives of Travellers everywhere.”

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