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Itinerant healthcare

The Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome- a mediator between vulnerable population groups and the Italian National Healthcare Service (SSN)

Daniela Pompei

Community of Sant’Egidio

By October 2021February 13th, 2023No Comments
Photo by Claudio Colotti

The Community of Sant’Egidio is very committed to facilitating access to treatment, especially in cases where there are language or cultural barriers. We are currently working on a project with homeless people, immigrants and Roma groups on the importance of getting vaccinated, to slowly help them gain a different type of awareness that goes beyond the confusing information you often hear about vaccines. The feedback has been quite positive and we are observing very high adherence to both doses.

A context that also requires mediation is when pregnant women- not just Muslim ones but also Christian ones (from Syria)- face a cultural barrier during visits with male doctors. Another complex situation that definitively requires mediation is the conflict triggered when women wish to have more children- for cultural reasons- despite having gone through many C-sections. This often leads to the women distancing themselves from their doctor and care. In fact, the low level of prevention awareness is a topic we care a lot about and that we often come across when supporting East European or Peruvian women. We often meet women that have been neglecting their health needs and by the time they reach our services they have developed extremely serious illnesses, such as oncological conditions that are very difficult to treat. This happens because they do not know about our system of prevention or because they are quite isolated. An example is the many Ukrainian women that experience the tragedy of a far-away and now forgotten war and maintain children and nephews with their job, while neglecting their own health needs. These are women that make many sacrifices and think a lot about their families, but they find themselves alone. However, something positive is happening in school. We manage an Italian Language and Culture School that is attended mostly by women, either due to the social care role they cover or because this is the only environment they can speak another language in and that, for example, helps them to communicate with their children’s teachers. Here we also started providing courses on healthcare prevention, with the collaboration of local health authorities (ASLs).

I think it would be helpful to spread the notion of mobile healthcare, whereby health services reach out and get closer to people.

The Community has always paid particular attention to health, with the aim to facilitate maximum access to healthcare services. In fact, it supports those who need to register with the Italian National Healthcare Service (SSN) and to retrieve their documents (service for homeless people). When people do not have a residence permit- or are waiting for it- they cannot access the SSN. The presence of the Community of Sant’Egidio is essential for this stage because it acts as a mediator between the SSN and vulnerable population groups.

Often it is our volunteers that move to different areas of town, looking for people on the street, in the outskirts of the city, also thanks to the so-called “itinerant dinners”, trying to bring the people who need it to our headquarters or, when the situation is serious, to the hospital. I think it would be helpful to spread the notion of mobile healthcare, whereby health services reach out and get closer to people. Going back to the topic of vaccinations, we already supported thousands of people- and keep on doing so- registering individuals to the SSN so they can access a GP. There are so many people that a whole world- that even we did not know about- is emerging. For this reason it is important to create spaces that maximise access to administration services, that do not create further challenges and take care of the many requests for support we are receiving. What we ask for is that these population groups are included, through our mediation, just like anybody else, in the routes to access public healthcare.