Funded by the European Union
Department of Biotechnology Government of India

Healthy Regions: Bridging the gaps, for better health in the Roma communities in Slovakia

Healthy Regions is a state-contributory organisation with the mission to implement and develop provisional countervailing measures in the health field.

Currently, the organisation works in eight regions of Slovakia. Its task is to implement activities to systematically improve conditions so that better health outcomes can be achieved. Healthy Regions has a total of 320 employees, of whom 86% come from marginalised Roma communities – health mediators for the communities. In this respect, the organisation is exceptional, not only in Slovakia but also in Europe. They operate in over 260 municipalities with over 400 marginalised Roma communities.

Like the rest of the organisations working in the field for PRESCRIP-TEC project, Healthy Regions works with health mediators to reach the target community. A health mediator is a member of the community who represents a trusted role model and their involvement contributes to greater acceptance of health messages.

In the PRESCRIP-TEC project, the health mediators’ work involves supporting and enhancing Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing and cervical cancer screening uptake in their area. To perform these tasks they underwent training and assisted in a series of educational events aimed at cervical cancer prevention. Over 500 men and women were present at these events (awareness sessions) at the invitation of health mediators. After educational events, a crucial part of health mediators´work was individual discussions with applicable clients. PRESCRIP-TEC within the target group of beneficiaries from marginalised Roma communities took place in 30 municipalities (34 health mediators).

The health workers are connected with their clients (in this case, the beneficiary women) through a bond of mutual trust which opens the door to offering their clients the opportunity to be screened for the HPV virus through self-testing, with the possibility of performing the test in the client’s home environment.

A dedicated team caring for the health of the community

We had the opportunity to interview several health mediators like Anna Rakašová. She is a mother of four children, and a grandmother of one. She has been working for Healthy Regions for three-and-a-half years. Her role in her community is health promotion and also cooperation with her clients´ doctors – making sure that clients seek healthcare and do not skip their health appointments. In general, the aim is to decrease barriers to access to healthcare. She is dedicated to this work which makes her feel happy and fulfilled.

´I like to work with people and I have a good feeling when I can help someone. It makes me happy´.

— Ms. Anna Rakašová, Health Assistancer

In the PRESCRIP-TEC project, Ms. Rakašová has assisted in and promoted a series of educational events aimed at cervical cancer prevention. Crucial to the project, and its results, was undoubtedly her daily work in promoting HPV self-testing with a personalised approach to every single client. Shall be mentioned, that the work included extensive questionnaires for clients focused on clients’ health and knowledge of risk factors. Health mediators also provided help to the client with seeking healthcare after obtaining the result of the self-test. Like many other health mediators, her work has involved supporting disease prevention in her area. Know more about the motivations of Ms. Rakašová and other health mediators in this video:

Progress of PRESCRIP-TEC in Slovakia

In Slovakia the project includes women aged 19-64. The implementation of the program is targeted at those groups of Slovak women that have long had very low participation in preventive and screening examinations. This includes marginalised Roma communities and workers in large manufacturing companies. The field phase with beneficiary women from marginalised Roma communities was conducted from October 2022 to February 2023 (as opposed to the original plan, which took into account 10 months´ field phase in marginalised Roma communities), therefore the modified plan was to collect 2.000 samples within this target group. These are collected through Healthy regions´ health mediators. The rest of the samples (to the final number of 8.000 samples from Slovakia)  is planned to be obtained among women who work in large manufacturing companies. With this approach, the effectiveness of the program can be assessed through a comparison with the population-wide screening program that is currently in place in Slovakia.

Do you want to know more about Healthy Regions? See the full interview with Mgr. Táňa Grauzelová, and Mgr. Barbora Tulpikova about the work of Healthy Regions implementing the PRESCRIP-TEC project.

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