Objectives: We compared the health of people living in Roma settlements with that of the general population in Hungary.
Methods: We performed comparative health interview surveys in 2003 to 2004 in representative samples of the Hungarian population and inhabitants of Roma settlements.
Results: In persons older than 44 years, 10% more of those living in Roma settlements reported their health as bad or very bad than did those in the lowest income quartile of the general population. Of those who used any health services, 35% of the Roma inhabitants and 4.4% of the general population experienced some discrimination. In Roma settlements, the proportion of persons who thought that they could do much for their own health was 13% to 15% lower, and heavy smoking and unhealthy diet were 1.5 to 3 times more prevalent, than in the lowest income quartile of the general population.
Conclusions: People living in Roma settlements experience severe social exclusion, which profoundly affects their health. Besides tackling the socioeconomic roots of the poor health of Roma people, specific public health interventions, including health education and health promotion programs, are needed.