Attitude to Travellers exemplified by inaction
The lack of action on a survey of Travellers first published in 2010 shows no one cares
IN SEPTEMBER 2010 the then minister for health, Mary Harney, launched a major report on the health of members of the Traveller community. She noted how 32,000 Travellers had taken part in the all-Ireland survey out of a total Traveller population on the island estimated at 40,000, an 80 per cent participation rate. The survey was conducted by a group of researchers at UCD led by Cecily Kelleher of the school of public health, physiotherapy population science.
The report revealed life expectancy for Traveller women in the Republic was just over 70 years, 11½ years less than for women in the general population. For men, life expectancy was under 62 years (61.7), 15 years fewer than for the general population of men – this had worsened by 5.2 years from a survey conducted in 1987.
The survey showed that if Travellers in the Republic had the same mortality experience as the general population the number of deaths expected in the year would be 54 but the number found was 188: 134 Traveller deaths per year more than would be the case if Travellers had the life expectancy of the general population.
The survey went on to reveal that suicide accounted for 11 per cent of all Traveller deaths. The suicide rate in male Travellers was 6.6 times higher than in the general population. The female suicide rate was also higher but the difference did not reach statistical significance.
The infant mortality rate for Travellers in the Republic was 3.6 times the rate for the general population – 3.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the general population, compared with 14.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the Traveller population.
More than 52 per cent of Travellers aged between 40 and 60 years interviewed had high blood pressure diagnosed in the previous year, compared with 35 per cent of the general population. The survey found 42 per cent of Travellers had been diagnosed with high cholesterol, compared with 30 per cent of the general population.
Both Travellers and health service providers interviewed for the survey said the social determinants of Traveller health were accommodation, education, employment, poverty, lifestyle, discrimination and access to and utilisation of services.
It found 73 per cent of Travellers lived most frequently in a house and 18 per cent lived in a trailer/mobile home or caravan. Flush toilets were available in more than 60 per cent of trailer/ mobile home or caravan sites – which means 40 per cent did not have flush toilets.
The study suggested appropriate amenities, rather than the type of accommodation, was the most important factor in determining the health and longevity of Travellers.