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Traditional CVD Risk Factors and Socio-Economic Deprivation in Roma Minority Population of Croatia

Croatian Anthropological Society; [email protected]
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  • Hypertension
  • Prevalence
  • Cvd
  • Risk Factors
  • Ses
  • Poverty
  • Roma
  • Croatia
  • Anthropology
  • Biology
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Medicine
  • Political Science


Researches into health inequalities consistently show disadvantages in health status, morbidity and mortality for various ethnic minority groups. Current knowledge about prevention of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) mainly derives from studies carried out in populations of European origin while the evidences involving Roma population are scarce. Roma, an ethnic minority of northern Indian origin, live in many countries throughout the world and are well known for preserved traditions and resistance to assimilation. They are most often marginalized economically, spatially, politically and in terms of culture. In order to assess the health status and health-related lifestyle attributes, a multidisciplinary anthropological and epidemiological community-based study was carried out including a total of 423 members of the Bayash Roma minority population living in two regions of Croatia (144 men and 279 women, aged 18–84 yrs). Hypertension (HT) was found in 24.8% Bayash Roma (21.5% men and 26.5% women) using standard diagnostic criteria (i.e. BP 140/90 mm Hg or taking antihypertensive therapy). The prevalence increases from 5.9% in the age group 18–34 yrs; 35.0% in the age group 35–64 yrs, and 51.4% in the age group 65+ yrs. The prevalence of hypertension in the Bayash Roma is almost half of the magnitude of what is usually reported for the general population of Croatia. It is also lower when compared with other European populations and this finding is not due to comparatively younger average age of the Bayash sample. The significant association of hypertension with age and BMI was confirmed in this study and the importance of non-traditional SES-related CVD risk factors was highlighted. Smoking is a part of traditional Roma life- style and with 70% of smokers almost the entire population is equally exposed to this risk factor in their family environment. Since homogenously distributed, this risk factor did not show to be a significant predictor of hypertension. The extent to which hypertension is influenced by traditional CVD risk factors as well as by some SES indicators was also assessed using a forward stepwise method of the multivariate logistic analysis. Each risk factor was explored as quantitative variable as well as qualitative one using various cut-offs. The best model showed to be the one having age and BMI presented as quantitative variables and sex, region, smoking status, income and schooling years as categorical ones; with cut-off 3 for number of income sources and 8 for the number of schooling years. In spite of the low prevalence of hypertension, the presented results are showing that Bayash Roma are bearing a high CVD risk factors load. We expect that with westernization of their life-style and along with increase of the economic power, the proportion of CVD in population of Bayash Roma will also increase. Therefore, it is important to recognize the need for early cardiovascular disease risk factors prevention in this minority population.

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