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Background: This study explores how the Roma in Romania, the EU's most concentrated population, are faring in terms of a number of quality of life indicators, including poverty levels, healthcare, education, water, sanitation, and hygiene. It further explores the role of synthetic populations and modelling in identifying at-risk populations and delivering targeted aid. Methods: 135 surveys were conducted across five geographically diverse Romanian communities. Household participants were selected through a comprehensive random walk method. Analyses were conducted on all data using Pandas for Python. Combining land scan data, time-use survey analyses, interview data, and ArcGIS, the resulting synthetic population was analysed via classification and regression tree (CART) analysis to identify hot-spots of need, both ethnically and geographically. Results: These data indicate that the Roma in Romania face significant disparities in education, with Roma students less likely to progress beyond 8 th grade. In addition, the Roma population remains significantly disadvantaged with regard to safe and secure housing, poverty, and healthcare status, particularly in connection to diarrheal disease. In contrast, however, both Roma and non-Roma in rural areas face difficulties regarding full-time employment, sanitation, and water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure. In addition, the use of a synthetic population can generate information about 'hot spots' of need, based on geography, ethnicity, and type of aid required. Conclusions: These data demonstrate the challenges that remain to the Roma population in Romania, and also point to the myriad of ways in which all rural Romanians, regardless of ethnicity, are encountering hardship. This study highlights an approach that combines traditional survey data with more wide-reaching geographically based data and CART analysis to determine 'hot spot' areas of need in a given population. With the appropriate inputs, this tool can be extrapolated to any population in any country.

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Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA.