The Department of Health’s All-Ireland Traveller Health Study documents a number of worrying facts about modern Traveller health:
- Traveller men die 15 years younger than settled men; Traveller women die 11 years younger than settled women.
- For every 4 infant deaths in the general population, there are 14 in the Traveller community.
- Traveller men have 7.5 times and Traveller women have 5 times more respiratory ill-health than the general population.
- Of Travellers tested 1 in 4 were diagnosed as having high cholesterol and more than 1 in 3 had high blood pressure.
- Chronic conditions among Travellers such as back conditions, diabetes and heart attack are 2 times the level of that in the general population.
The creation of a group of Traveller community health workers was an endeavour started several years ago by what was then known as the Traveller Health Action Zone Project (now incorporated into the KTHCDP). Tasked with improving Travellers’ health and well-being at local level, the scheme initially involved training members of the Travelling community in primary health care and /or community development.
Graduates of the scheme subsequently became our Traveller Community Health Workers. Today, they are the primary link between the Travelling community in Kerry (of which there are almost 400 families) and the health services, working with both to improve the health and well-being of Traveller women, men, teenagers and children in Kerry.
Their work involves:
- Identifying and responding to the local health needs of Travellers;
- Organising workshops on health topics relevant to the local Traveller community and supporting participation;
- Providing information on health and the health services to the Travelling community;
- Working with local community development workers, health service staff and other key workers to change the health status of the Travelling community;
- Supporting Travellers in gaining greater access to the health services;
- Highlighting gaps and barriers in order to make the health services more Traveller-friendly
Areas in which information and support are available include:
- ante-natal care
- the Beutler test
- healthy eating
- physical activity
- cancer screening
- clinic appointments
- domestic violence
- drug abuse