A support tool model for decision making to reduce the health risk

associated with the uncontrolled water and food sources

in rural Roma communities in Transylvania

Roma are the largest ethnic minority from Europe, with an estimated number between 10 and 12 million. Around 4 million live in Central and Eastern European member states of the European Union, the largest proportion living in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. The Roma community is one of the most disadvantaged communities at European level, both in terms of access to education, medical services, integration into society, equal chances, and access to the labour market.

These discrepancies have long-term consequences, and according to the European Commission Report “the Roma population has considerably shorter life expectancy compared to the non-Roma population”, the available data for 12 of 31 countries estimating a range from 7 to 20 fewer years of life. Although a lot of projects have been launched at European level to reduce the discrepancies between Roma and non-Roma citizens, there are still many issues that require special attention, mainly in terms of the health. The lack of scientific data on occurrence of pathogens and chemical contaminants in the diet (drinking water and food) of the rural Roma communities precludes the possibility to assess the water and foodborne health risk and thereby enabling to implement measures to reduce these diseases.

To fill in knowledge gaps, this project aims to determine the occurrence of pathogens (microbes and parasites) and to assess the occurrence and levels of chemical contaminants in drinking water and food items of 25 vulnerable rural Roma communities selected from Transylvania (20 with population less than 200 and 5 over 2000 individuals), with lack access to the controlled water and food sources, and to find solutions for reducing these shortcomings, and which should lead to improving the life quality of these Roma communities.

The project is an interdisciplinary one, including specialists in analytical chemistry, biology, public health, gastroenterology, epidemiology, informatics, statistics, the expected results being an important step forward to reduce the health inequalities between Roma and non-Roma communities by offering to the public authorities a support tool model for decision making to reduce the health risk associated to diet in the rural Roma communities which can be included also in the National Roma Integration Strategy.

This support tool model is the main project result and consists in a Friendly working software developed for health risk assessment correlated with the types and the quantities of contaminants ingested from uncontrolled water and food sources which can be applied to other similar communities and a Model of best practice hygienic-sanitary guidelines developed to enhance human health in Roma communities and to implement best practices, including personal hygiene, to ensure the safety of water and food sources, based on the recommendations provided by the Norwegian partner.

Other expected results are: a database with the measurements of quality of water and food sources in rural Roma communities in Transylvania, a study of the impact of uncontrolled water and food sources on the health and a methodology to monitor and control the quality of water and food sources in these communities in order to reduce the risk on human health.

Involving young researchers and PhD students in the project work, we aim to increase the research capacity of the partner institutions as well as to encourage their training in the high scientific quality, to support their research during the doctoral school and the career of female researchers.

The project experience and results enhance the performance of the Romanian researchers at international level, support an active participation of Romania in the European Research Area, and open further EU applications with the Norwegian partner. Transferring the accumulated knowledge to the end-users and stakeholders, the capitalisation of research project results in the benefits of the Roma communities will increase.