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Social Accountability and Legal Empowerment Initiatives: Improving the Health of Underserved Roma Communities in Eastern Europe.

Improving the protection of the right to health of ethnic Roma people is one of the most pressing public health challenges in contemporary Europe, as their life expectancy and health status remain significantly lower than their non-Roma counterparts.1 This paper analyzes Roma-led accountability initiatives that embrace social accountability and legal empowerment approaches to advocate for equitable fulfillment of the right to health. While these initiatives have led to the elimination of some harmful health practices (such as illegal cash bribes and violent and abusive treatment by medical professionals) and to improvements in health care, and some Roma communities have become driving forces for local and national health system reforms for advancing the fulfillment of health rights, the health inequalities affecting Roma communities remain significant. This issue also remains largely overlooked by European health research and policy experts, who are mostly reluctant to incorporate analyses of ethnicity and racialization into their research on health inequalities in Europe. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these health inequalities.

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