Press Release

Birth Cohort Study Follow Up Report of the All Ireland Traveller Health Study published on Department of Health Website

The Department of Health today (Wednesday 7th September, 2011) published the Birth Cohort Follow Up Report of the All Ireland Traveller Health Study on the Department’s website. The report presents the one year follow-up of Traveller infants born on the island of Ireland between October 2008 and October 2009.

The Department of Health and Children in conjunction with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland commissioned the study in 2007. The School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, University College Dublin were appointed to conduct the Study which expanded on research conducted by the Health Research Board in 1987: ‘Travellers Health Status Study – Vital Statistics of the Travelling People’.

This research consisted of a detailed longitudinal study investigating health-related issues of maternal and infant health status and the health services utilisation experience of 508 Traveller families and their infants. This was completed with the cooperation of Traveller mothers themselves, public health nurses and other healthcare staff.

Key Findings:

Traveller parents are younger in comparison to the general Irish population with an average age of 27.5 years for Traveller fathers and 25.9 for Traveller mothers. This is a difference of 7.1 years for fathers and 5.7 years for mothers when compared to the general population.
· Traveller mothers have a shorter birth gap between pregnancies and higher parity and stillbirth rates compared to the general population. On average, 5.0% of Traveller mothers have had at least one stillbirth compared to the 1.6% average of the general population.
· More Traveller mothers now present for the first booking visit to the hospital for antenatal services than reported in the past, with rates almost the same as the general population (22.5% versus 28% at 3 months). · More Traveller mothers (81.5%) had shared ante-natal care between maternity hospitals and General Practitioners than the general population (76.6%). However 2.1% of Traveller mothers had no ante-natal care compared to 0.2% of the general population.
· The breastfeeding rate for Travellers was still very low. Only 2.2% of Traveller mothers initiated breastfeeding compared to around 50% in the general population.
· Average birth weight of Traveller infants was comparable to the general population.
· Traveller babies have a comparable growth rate with the general population at 9 months of age.
· Public Health Nursing, community-based health services and Primary Health Care (General Practitioner) services are the main services utilised by Traveller mothers and their infants during the first year of life.
· The commonest complaint that Traveller infants attended health services for was for respiratory-related conditions. This was also the case in the general population.
· While Traveller infant mortality rates have decreased since the 1987 study, the study team found a higher infant mortality rate than the general population. This was 12.0 per 1,000 live Traveller births in 2008/2009 and 14.1 in 2007/2008 compared to 3.9 and 3.2 per 1000 live births in the general population for the same periods.

Traveller health continues to be a priority for the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive and considerable work has already been undertaken in this area. This commitment is reflected in the significant resources allocated to Traveller health services and to the commissioning of the All Ireland Traveller Health Study. The findings of the study to date have been informing policy development and practice in relation to Traveller health, and the newly released Birth Cohort Study Follow Up will add to the extensive knowledge base that has been accumulated.

This is Part D of Technical Report 2 which was initially published in September 2010 and contained reports on Demography and Vital Statistics, the initial Birth Cohort Study and Travellers in Institutions. This report completes the outputs from the All Ireland Traveller Health Study.

The full report can be downloaded

The entire suite of reports are available