The “Roma Alert!” project helps Roma in Bulgaria and Greece to use public health systems and trains them on health issues, hygiene and health system procedures. This should improve their health and quality of life, cut infant mortality and increase life expectancy. An analysis study investigated conditions in four settlements and documented problems and needs. Epidemiological research was carried out by collecting data, which can also be used by local authorities for formulating policy. Based on this, an action plan was developed setting out hygiene and health measures required in the medium and long term. Total investment for the project “Roma Alert!” is EUR 1 million, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 930000 from the Operational Programme “Greece - Bulgaria”.
A pilot project comprising training, check-ups and vaccinations was then launched. Training covered hygiene, nutrition, maternity, breast-feeding, child care, family planning, cancer, and health service access. Groups of doctors, social workers and teachers spent 150 hours conducting training and distributing support material, such as information leaflets, a health guide and a DVD, in the four settlements. At Drosero, 150 women and children were examined and around 100 children vaccinated, with repeat vaccinations given when needed and medical files kept at the hospital. Around 100 men and more than 300 women and their children attended discussions on sexually transmitted diseases and addiction.
Some 21 women and 40 children from Agia Sofia underwent hospital tests, with the children receiving vaccinations and their details kept on file, while 92 women and teenage girls and 81 men and teenage boys attended information days on infections, sexually transmitted diseases and addiction. Open discussion also took place and 200 food packages were distributed. In Izgrev, Vulcan and Marinovo, 80 people were vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, 50 women and 50 children underwent check-ups and over 100 people were trained on health topics. The hospital visits and check-ups contributed to diagnosis and treatment of undiagnosed problems, while the project website has become a knowledge repository on Roma health issues. The project has supported cooperation between Bulgaria and Greece and between local authorities and national health systems and established a network for raising awareness of Roma health issues and tackling exclusion.