What steps can government and key stakeholders take to improve the health status of minority populations?
The preceding case studies are concrete examples of projects using human rights mechanisms to improve access to health care and the health status of minority individuals and communities. The spectrum of barriers to health care for minority populations is broad, including discrimination in health care settings, a legacy of ineffective public policies, and geographic isolation. The table below presents some steps that governments and other key stakeholders can take immediately to begin to overcome these obstacles.
Ten steps for overcoming barriers to health care for minority populations:
1. Appoint minority representatives to participate in the design, implementation, and evaluation of health programs and policies that affect their lives.
2. Ensure that policies and legislation address social factors that determine health and the needs of minorities. Interventions that aim to improve housing, for example, are critical to reducing TB infections.
3. Support the collection of ethnically disaggregated data and, based on this data, allocate resources to populations most in need of basic health services. Communities should be involved in the data collection and analysis process.
4. Train health care workers in communicating and working with minority and marginalized populations.
5. Establish an ombudsperson office or other monitoring mechanism in health care systems to follow up reports of abuse or discrimination in health care settings.
6. Grant under-represented minority students incentives and assistance to enter health care professions.
Civil society, donors, researchers, media:
7. Civil society should become more familiar with instruments designed to protect and promote human rights, including the right to health for minorities.
8. Donors should invest in the institutional and capacity development of Roma leadership to engage effectively on policy issues affecting access to health and social services.
9. Academic, government, and other research communities should explore the inequities in access to health care for minorities and other marginalized populations.
10. Media should investigate and report systemic causes of the inequity in health status between minorities and the majority population in a balanced and fair manner.
Source: Open Society Institute Public Health Program. Left Out: Roma and Access to Health Care in Eastern Europe and South Eastern Europe, 2007.