The European Parliament funds a number of pilot projects designed to test the feasibility and usefulness of action, develop evidence-based strategies to address a problem, identify good practices, and provide policy guidance in the area of health inequalities.
One such pilot is VulnerABLE: Improving the health of those in isolated and vulnerable situations
It targets specific vulnerable and isolated populations such as children and families from disadvantaged backgrounds; those living in rural/isolated areas; those with physical, mental and learning disabilities or poor mental health; the long-term unemployed; the inactive; the ‘in-work poor’; older people; victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence; people with unstable housing situations (the homeless); and prisoners.
Due to their circumstances, these groups may be more at risk of poor health and/or face barriers in accessing healthcare services. The project will assess their particular health needs and challenges, as well as identify best practices to support them and ultimately improve their health.
Initial research has found that unmet health needs are a significant factor for those living in vulnerable and isolated situations. For example:
- Data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) show that in older people socioeconomic factors such as a lower level of education and lower income increase the likelihood of older people experiencing limitations to their mobility, and the prevalence of eyesight, hearing and chewing problems
- Those living in rural areas are less likely than urban residents to seek the healthcare they need because of cost, distance, and/or a lack of health facilities and professionals
- Most prisoners have pre-existing vulnerabilities, such as substance abuse and mental health needs, which overcrowding and poor hygiene in prison may make worse
- Those with lower levels of education are more likely to have a lower life expectancy
- Long-term unemployment and inactivity is associated with a range of poor health outcomes
Over its two-year lifetime, the ‘VulnerABLE’ project will create training materials and capacity-building workshops for national and regional authorities who deliver healthcare services and have a vital role to play in tackling health inequalities
For more information about Pilot projects to tackle Health Inequalities on the ec.europa.eu website