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J Epidemiol Community Health 61:205-210 doi:10.1136/jech.2006.046078
  • Research report

Health-related beliefs and experiences of Gypsies and Travellers: a qualitative study

  1. Patrice Van Cleemput1,
  2. Glenys Parry1,
  3. Kate Thomas2,
  4. Jean Peters1,
  5. Cindy Cooper1
  1. 1School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2School of Healthcare, Baines Wing, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 P V Cleemput
 School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield S1 4DA, UK; p.vancleemput{at}sheffield.ac.uk
  • Accepted 16 September 2006

Abstract

Objective: To illuminate findings of the survey of the health status of Gypsies and Travellers by exploring their health-related beliefs and experiences.

Design: Qualitative study of a purposive subsample from in-depth interviews using framework analysis.

Setting: The homes or alternative community settings of the participants in five geographically dispersed study locations in England.

Participants: 27 Gypsies and Travellers with an experience of ill health, purposively sampled from a larger population participating in an epidemiological survey of health status.

Results: The experience of poor health and daily encounters of ill health among extended family members were normalised and accepted. Four major themes emerged relating to health beliefs and the effect of lifestyle on health for these respondents: the travelling way; low expectations of health; self-reliance and staying in control; fatalism and fear of death. These themes dominated accounts of health experience and were relevant to the experience. These themes add richness to the health status data and inform our understanding.

Conclusions: Among Gypsies and Travellers, coherent cultural beliefs and attitudes underpin health-related behaviour, and health experiences must be understood in this context. In this group, ill health is seen as normal, an inevitable consequence of adverse social experiences, and is stoically and fatalistically accepted. The provision of effective healthcare and improvement of poor health in Gypsies and Travellers will require multi-agency awareness of these issues.

Footnotes

  • i Each quote is attributed to the interviewee by their unique identification code. M and F stand for male and female. The number relates to the order in which each man or woman was interviewed.

  • ii Most Gypsies and Travellers are licensees on rented sites and can lose their licence without notice if they vacate their plot to travel for more than a specified limited period of weeks. Other restrictive conditions that gave the feeling of “imprisonment” were described.

  • Funding: Funding was received from the Department of Health. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Department of Health.

  • Competing interests: None.