Objective: We sought to test methods for generating epidemiological evidence on health conditions of small, dispersed minority communities.
Methods: We used community-based mixed methods including a cross-sectional survey in 5 purposely selected settlements of Khorakané Romá (Gypsies of Muslim culture) in Italy to study the living conditions and health status of children aged from birth to 5 years.
Results: In the 15 days prior to the survey, 32% of the children had suffered diarrhea and 55% had had a cough. Some 17% had experienced respiratory difficulties during the past year. Risk factors associated with these outcomes included years spent living at the camp, overcrowding, housing conditions, use of wood-burning stoves, presence of rats, and issues related to quality of sanitation and drains. Qualitative information helped define the approach and the design, and in the interpretation and consolidation of quantitative results.
Conclusions: Guided by the priorities expressed by dispersed minority communities, small studies with little resources can provide a solid base to advocate for evidence-based participatory planning. Exact intervals appeared to be robust and conservative enough compared with other intervals, conferring solidity to the results.