The National Traveller Health Action Plan (NTHAP) 2022-2027 launched today (28 November) aims to improve the health experiences and health outcomes for Travellers.
The Department of Health is providing additional ring-fenced funding of €1 million in 2023 to support the implementation of the plan, with a further €300,000 specifically for mental health services.
The NTHAP acknowledges the health inequalities that Travellers experience, arising from the social determinants of health and the obstacles they can face in accessing healthcare services. It will provide a solid foundation upon which to build and maintain a legacy of success in addressing the additional health needs of the Traveller population, according to the HSE.
Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly said at the launch: “Today is about accepting the reality, acknowledging that in the past enough has not been done, [and] putting in place a plan for the future to make sure that the services that are needed for Traveller men, women and children are provided.”
He also said in a press statement: “[The NTHAP] is a comprehensive public health response to the health needs of Travellers, that that sets out tailored and affirmative measures to prevent disease, promote health and prolong life, and are delivered in partnership with Traveller. In particular, I welcome the focus on the mental health needs of Travellers, which is in line with the prioritisation of Travellers in my Department’s mental health policies.”
“To address the needs of Traveller women who experience homelessness additional funding is being provided from the Women’s Health Action Plan,” he added.
The plan includes health and social care interventions that will have the most impact on Traveller health, including mental healthcare and chronic disease diagnosis, early interventions and management.
The NTHAP contains 45 actions, which include:
- Continue to resource Primary Health Care for Traveller Projects (PHCTPs) in line with key responsibilities for marginalised communities
- Identify resources to reinstate and expand PHCTPs in areas where they do not exist.
- Consolidate the public health measures put in place to minimise the impact of Covid-19 and other communicable diseases on Travellers, including primary childhood immunisation programmes, control of outbreaks such as hepatitis A, and Covid-19 vaccinations.
- Support and resource peer-led initiatives focused on Traveller men’s health to improve mental health and wellbeing.
Ms Mary Brigid Collins, Primary Health Care for Travellers representative on the National Traveller Health Action Plan Steering Group, said: “I am delighted at the publication of this much-needed National Traveller Health Action Plan. I believe it has the potential to bring about real positive change for Travellers around the country.
“It has Traveller inclusion at the centre of the plan and recognises the impact of racism, discrimination, poor living conditions, poor outcomes in education and unemployment have on health outcomes.
“It recognises also the importance of active Traveller participation and the role of Traveller Health Units and Traveller Primary Health Care Projects. Travellers look forward to continuing to work with the [HSE] and the Department of Health and will continue to highlight the need for recurring and realistic budgets if we’re serious about implementing the plan.”
The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman said: “We know that Travellers have poorer health outcomes than that of the general population, and face particular challenges in accessing health care services.
“The development and implementation of a detailed action plan to address the specific health needs of Travellers is an action of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy [NTRIS], which is led by my Department, and is a key commitment of the Programme for Government.”
The HSE plans to establish a steering group before the end of 2022 to monitor and report on the implementation of the plan at national and regional levels. Traveller Health Units will also develop a 5-year implementation plan and publish an annual report.