REVIEW – February 2007

Health status of the Estonian population – perspectives of improvement of the situation


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Indicators of health status of the Estonian people are worrying. Average life expectancy at birth is 66 years for males and 77 years for females. There is a marked difference in the trends of female and male life expectancy. The proportion of premature deaths, i.e. deathes before the age of 65, is 55 per cent the general mortality. Cardiovascular diseases are a significant cause of premature mortality but injury has contributed more than other causes to the deterioration of health in Estonia. An increase in traffic accidents caused by drunken drivers and high death rates due to alcohol poisoning, as well as high injury mortality, are indicators of excessive alcohol consumption. Available data show large and increasing disparities in the health behaviour and status among the population groups distinguished on the basis of income and educational level.
Favourably, infant mortality has fallen steadily in recent years and is very close to EU-15 average. Recently, the Ministry of Social Affairs has formulated a consensus document “National health policy investment into health”, which has been widely discussed and is hopefully soon getting the approval of Riigikogu (Parlament). The targets of this document are ambitious – to increase average life expectancy at birth to 73 years for men and to 80 years for women by the year 2015. In many areas the behaviour of the Estonian population has become more health – enhancing. However, there remain a number of challenges.
They include designing and implementing specific measures to reduce inequities in the health status and health behaviour; gaining control of and responding to the consequences of the HIV epidemic; improving medical services and boosting health expenditure as a proportion of GDP.