Child Poverty in Poland
In 2016, child poverty in Poland was at a rate of 24.2%. The next year, the percentage of child poverty in Poland dropped to 17.9.

The Family 500+ Program

Although child poverty in Poland is declining, the country ranks in the middle among other E.U. countries. In large part, the country can thank the social policies that the Polish government has adopted, especially the Family 500+ program. This program benefits children where families with two or more children under the age of 18 receive PLN 500 per child monthly, regardless of income. Families with lower incomes receive the benefit for their first child as well. The program boosted additional financial support to about 12% of the average gross wage in 2016. The program shows a great increase in transfers to households living in poverty, as by design, it emerged to be supplementary to other social assistance programs and family benefits.

How the Program Helps

Although the World Bank has argued that the Family 500+ program could create undesirable outcomes, like female labor force participation, which would inhibit fertility rates within the country, the Family 500+ program is a tremendous aid to children in poverty in Poland. For instance, the Family 500+ program covers an estimated 55% of all children in Poland who fulfill the age requirement of being under the age of 18. Meanwhile, by the end of February 2017, the Family 500+ program covered more than 3.82 million children under the age of 18, totaling PLN 21 billion. This shows the Polish government’s commitment to alleviating child poverty in Poland, as the program has contributed to a dramatic increase in the government’s spending on children.

In addition to Poland’s new family benefits program that it launched in order to alleviate child poverty in Poland, the country has also increased efforts to boost birth rates through the program. According to a Eurostat report in 2015, Poland had one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe at a rate of 1.32 children per woman, placing Poland at the second-lowest, right after Portugal.

Success at Reducing Child Poverty in Poland

In a recent Oxfam report, which is an international charity based in Oxford, Poland placed 26th in the world for fighting inequality. In spite of this, Oxfam ranked Poland the best at utilizing social spending to fight poverty and alleviating child poverty in Poland. In fact, estimates have determined that Poland’s child poverty rate will reduce by 76%, because of the program’s cash transfers. Statistics Office shows a 13% to 15% increase in childbirth, as recorded in December 2016 and January 2017. Not only that, after the program’s introduction, rates of consumption and saving have increased and debt levels have decreased. This shows an increase in income which could, in effect, help to alleviate poverty in Poland as a whole.

The Family 500+ program proves to be a significant tool in eliminating child poverty in Poland.

– Danielle Lindenbaum
Photo: Flickr

hunger in PolandHunger and malnutrition continue to pose a huge threat to millions of individuals across the globe. Many do not think of Poland when it comes to hunger, but that doesn’t mean hunger doesn’t exist in the country. While thankfully the percent of individuals who suffer from hunger is rather low, a majority of those who do suffer from hunger and malnutrition are children. Here are five facts about hunger in Poland.

5 Facts About Hunger in Poland

  1. The percent of individuals in Poland living in hunger has been stagnant since 2000. As of 2017, Poland has seen 2.5% of its population living in hunger. While this is a huge feat on its own, this percent has not increased since 2000–Poland has had only 2.5% of its population live in hunger for almost two decades. This ranks Poland among countries with the lowest hunger rates.
  2.  Almost 120,000 children in Poland go to school hungry, according to a Polish foundation called A Piece of Heaven. By not having proper nourishment, students’ ability to perform well in both educational and extracurricular activities can be affected. Luckily, organizations such as A Piece of Heaven are dedicated to help improve the nutrition of Polish children. Most specifically, the organizations help children dealing with sickness and or living in poverty. Through their work, A Piece of Heaven has helped 150,000 individuals.
  3. 170,000 children in Poland suffer from malnutrition. While hunger may not be a large risk, malnutrition has affected Polish children at a higher rate. Malnutrition often poses a problem in rural areas of Poland, where poverty levels are higher. Because their families face financial afflictions, oftentimes nutritious food and resources are more difficult to acquire. Malnutrition in childhood can cause developmental irregularities in the central nervous system, struggles with mental health and underweight body mass.
  4. Much of the hunger in Poland is due to poverty. While of course poverty and hunger are not directly connected, Warsaw’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetic with Clinic of Metabolic Diseases and Gastroenterology has estimated that much of Poland’s hunger is due to poverty. They also suggest that poverty not only affects rates of hunger, but also malnutrition. Those living below the poverty line have limited access to more nutritionally balanced food with a higher price tag.
  5. 23,000 children living in Warsaw suffer from starvation. While Poland does have one of the lowest rates of hunger in the world, A Piece of Heaven estimates that tens of thousands of children go hungry each day in the nation’s capital. Because hunger in Poland does not pose a large issue in a global light, many are unaware of this tragic reality. Many of these children are living in poverty, though, and have little to no food with nutritional value.

While Poland has made great efforts to keep the percentage of individuals living in hunger down, there is more to be done. This is especially true for children living in poor, rural areas. Through help from organizations bringing food to malnourished and hungry children, hopefully Poland’s hunger rate that has stayed stagnant for so long can now begin to decrease even more.

Olivia Eaker
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Poland
Poland is an eastern European country between Belarus and Ukraine. As a member of the European Union, Poland enjoys many benefits and privileges. Many consider the eastern European country’s economy one of the most developed in Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, its Human Development Index (HDI) score is around .872, which is very high. Additionally, Poland has a successful universal healthcare system, although it has experienced challenges. Here is some information about healthcare in Poland.

Universal Healthcare

Nearly all European countries have free and universal healthcare, and Poland is no exception. The country offers a free public healthcare system in which every Polish and E.U. resident has the right to accessible healthcare, supported by the National Health Fund. The organization’s funding consists of a mandatory contribution from every Polish citizen: an 8.5% deduction from individual income. These deductions are the main source of funding for public and free health insurance. However, Poland does offer private health insurance as well. As of 2017, 91% of Poland’s population has insurance.

Flaws in Polish Healthcare 

Although Poland’s healthcare coverage is impressive, organizational problems, politics, underfunding and outdated technology still plague the system. The percentage of the population that has insurance is high, at 91%, but this is still lower than in many other European countries. Poland’s organizational structure is also incredibly understaffed in physicians, and especially specialists. Under the current Polish government, funding for the National Health Fund is also converting into a federal budget funding system, further complicating the bureaucracy of Polish healthcare. 

Income Inequality and Health

Another problem that plagues healthcare in Poland is the disparity of health between high income- and low-income groups. According to Poland’s 2017 health profile, 71% of high-income citizens report that they are in good health while only 53% of low-income citizens state the same. This 18 point difference is sizeable, considering Poland’s population. Poland’s life expectancy rate is also lower than most European countries, ranking 24th in the E.U. at around 77.5 years. With the improvement of its healthcare system, Poland has the potential to increase its life expectancy and decrease the health gap.

Poland’s healthcare system is effective in providing basic primary care to its residents. One can attribute this to both the improved treatment for cardiovascular disease– the leading cause of death in Poland–and the centralization of Poland’s healthcare system since 1999. However, the nation must prioritize the improvement of its organizational structure and funding system to continue to benefit its citizens.

Poland’s healthcare system is keeping most citizens healthy, but there are further improvements necessary in order for the current system to increase efficiency and reach beyond-average higher standards of health. Healthcare in Poland may not currently live up to the standards of other western European countries, but it has the potential to improve its healthcare structure to compete with and possibly surpass them in the future, considering its relative economic stability. In pursuit of this goal, Poland is taking steps to improve its healthcare system. The Polish Ministry of Health has begun using electronic prescriptions and other e-health technologies to improve coordination between hospitals, physicians and patients. The Ministry is also working on plans to further increase the number of physicians and specialists available in the public sector. Such reforms are essential to remaining competitive with other European countries.

Sadat Tashin
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Poland
Poland is a parliamentary republic in Central Europe. The country was a formal satellite state of the Soviet Union until it gained full sovereignty in 1989 after the country’s free election. During the early 1990s, the Polish government implemented the “Shock Therapy,” or Plan Balcerowicza in Polish, program to vitalize the country’s economy. The program succeeded, bringing Poland’s GDP from 65.978 Billion in 1990 to 533.816 Billion in 2008. While this rapid increase in the country’s GDP fluctuated throughout the 2010s, Poland’s economy is still growing. Despite this massive economic growth, poverty in Poland is an issue that demands the Polish government’s attention.

What is Energy Poverty?

Energy poverty is one factor that contributes to the state of poverty in Poland. Energy poverty refers to a situation where a household has difficulty in heating their homes or has limitations in using electrical household appliances because they can’t get access to a stable power grid. While energy poverty is an unfamiliar term to many countries, including in Poland, there are reports that suggest Polish citizens often suffer from it.

The definition of energy poverty can also change depending on if the country suffering from it is a developed country or a developing nation. In developing countries, energy poverty refers to a lack of access to electricity because of the country’s gaps in electrical infrastructures. In developed countries, such as Poland, energy poverty refers to a household’s lack of access to electricity because of their financial limitations. The United Kingdom, which is currently the only country that has an operational definition of energy poverty, states that a household is energy poor if their required energy costs are higher than 10% of its disposable income.

According to the U.K.’s definition, researchers found that 40% of Polish households were energy poor in 2012. Given Poland’s three-month-long severe winter temperatures, which can drop to -32 degrees Celsius (or -4 degrees Fahrenheit), this factor can jeopardize the health of many Polish households that suffer from energy poverty.

Not only can energy poverty cause reduced immunity, elevated incidence of respiratory system diseases and weight gain in children, but it can also have a negative impact on the mental well-being of adults. In extreme situations, fatal cases of hypothermia can also occur. Ryszard, a Polish worker who was interviewed by The World Bank in 2014, stated that the majority of his monthly $500 payment is used to heat his apartment and to buy food for him and his daughter.

The Ups and Downs of Unemployment

Despite Poland’s continuous drop in the unemployment rate, youth unemployment still contributes to the rate of poverty in Poland. Poland’s unemployment rate, which was 10.32% in 2013, sharply dropped to 3.84% in 2018. Eurostat, a statistics website, noted that Poland had the largest decrease in the unemployment rate within the E.U. between 2005 and 2019.

However, Polish youth securing stable, long-term employment is still challenging. According to the World Bank, Poland’s youth unemployment was 25%, which was higher than the national unemployment of 14%.

Even when young people in Poland are able to secure employment, the usually secure temporary contracts that pay little and have no social and economic security. In 2014, when the World Bank article was written, an estimated 27% of employed Poles worked as temporary contracts. These temporary, low-paying jobs leave many households in Poland in danger of poverty.

Helping Hands

The Polish government and many other organizations are working to address the current state of poverty in Poland. Habitat for humanity launched an advocacy project in 2017 to prevent and alleviate energy poverty in Poland. The project aims to alleviate energy poverty in Poland by developing and mobilizing a prevention group that will gather and systemize information about it.

Izodom 2000, a company based in Poland, is building energy-saving houses that can help Polish households save on their heating bills. The Polish government also conducts spending programs that support low-income families. These assistance programs constitute approximately 2% of Poland’s GDP. While the World Bank states that Poland’s multiple social assistance programs are helpful, they added that Poland’s programs could be expanded to mirror that of the programs in Germany and Hungary.

Poverty in Poland has many aspects. From energy poverty to youth unemployment, multiple factors contribute to poverty in Poland. Improving and building energy-efficient housings for Polish families and creating stable jobs for the Polish youth is no small task. However, there are many organizations and people that are facing this challenge head-on. The Polish government conducts multiple social assistance programs and many other nonprofit organizations work to improve the lives of many Polish citizens.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Poland’s Rising Homeless Population
When one first looks at the statistics of Poland’s homeless population and rates, it does not appear as bad as other Eastern European countries. Unfortunately, it is quite hazardous to be homeless in Poland. With deadly cold weather during the winter and spring, along with few programs to help solve this problem, many who live or come to this country make it a point to avoid living on the streets. Here are seven facts about Poland’s rising homeless population.

7 Facts About Poland’s Rising Homeless Population

  1. Homeless Statistics: Many of the homelessness statistics appear outdated and inconclusively gathered. The Polish government had announced that there were around 33,408 homeless people within the country. Many, however, believe that these statistics have grossly underexaggerated this number and that the actual number is much higher.
  2. Homelessness Duration: One of the more damaging statistics to the homeless situation is that not only is the number of homeless growing in Poland, but people are staying homeless for longer durations. In 2017, records determined that around 25 percent of the homeless population were staying homeless for over 10 years with no sign of their situation improving. More people within the country are finding themselves homeless for longer durations, in spite of emergency care and other NGO programs.
  3. People Who Are Homeless: The homeless population does not comprise of just Polish citizens. It also includes asylum seekers and refugees, with most hailing from Chechnya. Many of these Chechen refugees and asylum seekers are seeking a safe haven from persecution within their homelands, and have actually gotten along well with other homeless in Poland.
  4. Rising House Prices: A large reason for the rising homeless rates is the rising housing prices, not just in Poland, but within Europe in general. Large cities within Poland such as Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk have seen a 7.11 percent increase in prices. This is mostly due to low supply, high demand and a decline in low-cost housing among young adults. This may be good for homeowners and real estate investors, but it is to the detriment of those who cannot afford the rising housing prices. Out of the seven facts about Poland’s rising homeless population, this might be one of the most impactful.
  5. Housing Program: A housing program that allows for subsidies to housing within cities could give the homeless a chance to live in a training flat that the Camillian Mission for Social Assistance runs. Unfortunately, this program does not cover medical costs which can lead to a person’s inability to work, and in turn, make them unable to pay what they need to stay in the aforementioned flats. This program has not released a success rate, but some believe that it is lowering every year.
  6. Health Care: Another crippling factor for the homeless population is other faulty social programs that cannot properly support the population. Accessing health services for the homeless is difficult mainly because of bureaucratic requirements that homeless people cannot meet more often than not because of their situations. In 2018, however, the government put a new law into place that allowed it to cancel its requirements for health care so that Polish citizens could receive free health care that the state budget paid for.
  7. NGO and Community Programs: After analyzing the situation, the E.U. has concluded that Poland’s situation is similar to the Portuguese. The E.U.’s analytics since 2018 have deduced that although Poland had put programs in place to try and deal with the issue of homelessness, around 90 percent of services that people receive come via NGOs and other community groups that receive financing from local authorities. The NGOs, however, do not help fix the problem of reintegrating the homeless into a liveable situation, as they are more equipped for emergency situations.

As these seven facts about Poland’s rising homeless population shows, the Polish government is trying to help those who find themselves down on their luck, but the problem has festered due to inefficient programs. Though these programs clearly aim to help people in dire situations, they do little to solve the overall problem of keeping people off of the streets. The country will clearly appreciate help from the E.U., but the way Poland uses the money will determine people’s fates.

Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Poland

Of all the countries comprising the EU, Poland has one of the lowest life expectancy rates, ranking 22 out of 28. With a population of 38,420,687 people and an average life expectancy of 77 years, Poland has been facing healthcare problems for years. In the past two decades, several reform programs have been implemented to address these issues and life expectancy is on the rise. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Poland describe the issues Polish citizens are facing and the lengths the Ministry of Health is going to in order to help.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Poland

  1. Life expectancy in Poland has risen consistently over the past several years. In 2014, the life expectancy for men was 73 years and for women it was 81 years. This is an increase of about four years for both men and women since the year 2000.
  2. Poland still ranks lower than average for life expectancy among other European countries. The average life expectancy of the EU is 78 years for men and 84 years for women. This discrepancy with the Polish population could be due to high tobacco and alcohol usage, obesity and various socioeconomic influences, with 36 percent of overall health issues being traced back to these factors.
  3. Polish people are 60 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases than the rest of Europe. Among the population, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for 40 to 50 percent of deaths and cancer is responsible for an average of 25 percent. In 2015, Poland introduced a 10-year cancer strategy focusing on prevention, diagnosis, treatment and improving quality of life.
  4. With 6.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people, Poland ranks higher than the EU average for accessibility. However, there are only 5.2 nurses and 2.3 physicians practicing per 1,000 people, which ranks among the lowest in the EU (8.4 nurses and 3.6 physicians on average, per 1,000 people). In addition, healthcare services are divided by regional, county and municipal governments, making access and coordination among them difficult.
  5. The current unemployment rate in Poland is 3.5 percent, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. However, the CIA World Factbook lists the poverty rate at 17 percent, as recently as 2015. The difference in healthcare between the population with the highest income and the lowest income is a 20 percent gap, with 71 percent of the highest income population reporting good health compared to just 53 percent of those with the lowest income.
  6. Although the average GDP spending for health in Poland has risen from 5.3 to 6.3 percent over the last 20 years, it is still well below the EU average of 9.9 percent. Per capita, Poland spends an average of EUR 1,272, making it the fifth lowest in the EU for spending. Private out-of-pocket spending made up about 23 percent of health spending, versus the EU average of 15 percent.
  7. There is an inability to train and retain an adequate number of healthcare workers and providers. Family medicine is not popular due to poor working conditions, low wages and limited career options. To combat this, a policy (Directive 2005/36/EC) was implemented in 2014 allowing all pediatricians and internists to work as primary healthcare physicians as well, without requiring any additional education or experience.
  8. Poland ranks fifth lowest for eHealth adoption and utilization among general practitioners and second-lowest for information and communication technology in the medical field. On average, 1.5 general practitioners use eHealth resources compared to the EU average of 1.9. The European Structural and Investment Funds are aiming to help further digitize the healthcare system in Poland, which in turn will lower wait times and provide more opportunities and access to a healthcare provider.
  9. Between 2014 and 2020, Poland will receive EUR 3 billion to fund health-related programs. The focus will be on emergency medical infrastructure, long-term healthcare, tobacco/alcohol/obesity prevention programs and eHealth access. The Polish Ministry of Health is committed to increasing public spending on health by 35 percent by 2024.
  10. Poland implemented the National Health Programme in order to address public health issues and promote healthy behaviors and activity. By using mass media, government-funded programs, such as the National Programme for Prevention of Alcohol-Related Problems, and legal acts, such as the Act of Physical Culture, the National Health Programme is working towards halving the growth rate of obesity and diabetes and reducing the amount of alcohol abusers by 10 percent, both by 2025. It is also aiming to reduce the amount of tobacco use by two percent by 2020.

With Polish healthcare falling short compared to EU averages, the Polish government and Ministry of Health have acknowledged the problem and are in the process of refocusing efforts to improve the quality of medical care in the country. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Poland show that there has been an improvement in overall healthcare and life expectancy, although efforts are still ongoing. Life expectancy in Poland has been increasing by an average rate of 0.21 percent and with these changes that growth will continue over the next several years.

– Jessica Winarski
Photo: Unsplash

10. Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Poland
Poland’s future is in jeopardy. More specifically, the future of Poland’s youth is in jeopardy. While the country is dealing with difficult poverty issues, the youth of Poland face uncertainty in job perspective. Detailed in this list of the top 10 facts about poverty in Poland are the contributing factors to today’s crisis, as well as possible improvement in the future based on the projected increase of foreign aid to Poland.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Poland

  1. The CIA World Factbook estimates that 17 percent of Poland’s population is under the poverty line. The World Data Group defines the poverty line as earning anything below $1.90 per day. Poland’s total population is 37.95 million people, which means that there are 6.4 million people in poverty. To put this into perspective, that is the number of people that currently live in Indiana.
  2. According to the World Bank Data, unemployment in Poland is around 14 percent and among the young population, it is 25 percent. This level of unemployment was reached in small towns like Tarnobrzeg due to leaders prioritizing failed tourist attractions over the actual sources of employment and money. For example, the leaders of Tarnobrzeg shut down their mines to replace them with an artificial lake. The lake was only able to be used during the two warmest months of the year, hurting the town’s economy badly.
  3. While the average salary of Polish citizens is at an all-time high (around $963), the minimum wage is less than half of the average. Average rent across Poland ranges from $272 to $816.
  4. Many citizens give a large chunk of their paycheck to heating companies to stay warm during Poland’s harsh winters, resulting in a lesser amount of money to meet other survival needs. The average cost of heating in Poland is $180.
  5. Young people in Poland struggle to keep long-lasting employment because many agencies use temporary work. In the World Bank Data coverage of poverty in Poland, the story states that 27 percent of the young population faces “junk contracts” that do not help their living situations. “Junk contracts” are temporary contracts for workers that do not offer a stable income, a source of long-term financial stability or any health benefits. These job prospects are so terrible that around one million people between the ages of 15 and 24 travel abroad to earn higher wages. Between 2009 and 2011, only 40.3 percent of temporary workers were able to get permanent jobs, according to the Social Diagnosis survey.
  6. Education is becoming the important focus for young people in Poland. Despite 80 percent of the youth population attending schools that lead to higher education, future employers are uninterested in these dedicated students and fail to train them instead. Social Europe’s report on youth unemployment in Poland claims that less than 23 percent of Polish companies cooperated with a school or a center for practical training.
  7. World Bank Data claims that Poland’s economy grew 81 percent between 1990 and 2010. However, the wage gaps between the wealthy and those below the poverty line also grew. Scientific Research Journal found that “rising income inequalities were exacerbated as Poland’s economy grew and private ownership expanded”.
  8. Approximately 35 percent of children under the age of 17 rely on government assistance. Not only that, but World Socialist Web reports that 3 percent of families with more than one child cannot afford to feed all members of the family. The Polish government only plans on allowing approximately $220 million in government funding each year until 2020.
  9. In 2015, World Bank Data released a report claiming that spending programs in support of low-income families in Poland are well targeted and that they mostly benefit low-income households. While this is a great start, Poland must expand its assistance to the poor. World Bank Data stated that a solution to this problem would be for the government to investigate the causes of this high poverty level and start there. Some government assistance programs realize that this is an important step and have suggested the implementation of a family cash bonus entitled Rodzina 500+. This step will also look into how to restructure the system so that low-income families are the first to receive support.
  10. According to USAID, the U.S. gave Poland approximately $13 million in 2016. However, a large portion of the funding is going towards the military. The amount of aid going to Poland has substantially dropped in the last 15 years. On average, the U.S. gave between $50 million and $80 million until 2015. In 2016, $11 million went to military aid and a grand total of $6,400 went to maternal and child health.

Poland’s poverty crisis is not quite at a catastrophic level. The people are surviving and the government is acknowledging the crisis. These top 10 facts about poverty in Poland attempt to show the spectrum of issues and possible solutions for Poland. Poland’s government, as well as the U.S.’s foreign aid system, can help the underprivileged and prevent this situation from worsening.

– Miranda Garbaciak

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Poland

Every day in Poland, almost 120,000 children go to school hungry. More than half of these children rely almost entirely on meals supplied by their school or another type of government-funded meal program. Hunger in Poland is one of the most pressing issues facing the nation, and despite the alarmingly high number of hungry Polish children, the Polish government’s plan to address this crisis is to spend 550 million zlotych (roughly $153 million) per year on food programs. When you do the math, this equates to less than $70 per child per year.

Poland ranks third in the European Union on the list of the most children living in poverty, behind only Romania and Belarus. Poverty, hunger and limited access to education all go hand in hand, and today the children of Poland are facing a crisis of epic proportions.

The foundations of hunger in Poland can be traced back to the nation shifting from a planned to a market economy in 1989. This created a sort of vacuum in terms of economic control, and it allowed a wealthy minority to capitalize on the shift while the poor grew poorer. The economic shift marked the beginning of a steady increase in economic inequality in Poland. Ensuing conditions in the years since 1989 led to spiking levels of unemployment, emigration and labor strikes.

Poland is a Second World, the former socialist state still reeling from economic turmoil created decades before. In 2017, the repercussions of the radical shift in the Polish economic system can be seen in the faces of hungry children. But given the necessary assistance, Poland can rebound and develop into a balanced, self-sustaining economic power in Eastern Europe.

There are a number of charities of a variety of sizes and origins currently working in Poland. They range from the Red Cross, which provides aid around the world, to the local Emaus Lubin charity, based in Lubin, Poland, which helps hungry Poles by supporting food systems and social welfare programs.

The humanitarian crisis in Poland needs to be combated with the full efforts of the international aid community. The children of Poland who wake up and go to school without breakfast are depending on our help, and today is the day to implement the change to stop this cycle of poverty and hunger in Poland.

Ty Troped

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in PolandThe World Health Organization (WHO) reports noncommunicable diseases are one of the major health and development challenges of the 21st century. Low and middle-income countries suffer the most from these diseases, but even high-income countries such as Poland are affected. According to the Institution for Health Metrics and Evaluation, ischemic heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and lung cancer are some of the most common diseases in Poland.

Ischemic Heart Disease
The American Heart Association identifies ischemic heart disease as a condition in which heart complications develop due to the narrowing of heart arteries. As a result, heart attacks, strokes and other life-threatening problems can occur. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. Over three-quarters of those deaths take place in low and middle-income countries. In 2015 alone, approximately half of the deaths in Poland resulted from heart-related diseases.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states that the reasoning behind this large statistic could be caused by Poland’s lack of partaking in risk-reducing behavior. The adult smoking rate in Poland is 23.8 percent. This is higher than the OECD average of 20.9 percent. The reported prevalence of high blood pressure is also high at 37.2 percent; this is 11 percent over the OECD average.

Fortunately, 2013 marked the year 193 UN member states joined the WHO to reduce preventable noncommunicable diseases. Targets include a 25 percent decrease in the global occurrence of high blood pressure and the prevention of heart-related complications. Each country’s progress is set to be assessed in 2018.

Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is a manifestation of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time. The 2016 World Alzheimer Report claims that approximately 47 million people globally are living with dementia. As subsequent populations continue to live longer, this number is expected to rise.

Regrettably, people living with Alzheimer’s have poor access to adequate healthcare. Even in high-income countries, such as Poland, a mere 50 percent of people living with dementia receive a diagnosis. In low and middle-income countries, these numbers are worse – less than 10 percent of cases are properly identified.

Poland, specifically, has seen an increased rate of Alzheimer’s over the past decade. The Institution for Health Metrics and Evaluation marks a rise of almost 38 percent. Luckily, the WHO and the OECD have noticed the issues associated with dementia and have decided to take action. Policies introduced include better care, early diagnosis, implementing innovation in science and technology and having open access to data.

Lung Cancer
The uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs is the definition of lung cancer. These irregular cells fail to make healthy lung tissue and can interfere with the function of the lung. Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath and coughing up blood. The WHO states that cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, with lung cancer being the most common type of cancer in the world.

North America and Europe have the most cases of lung cancer, with Poland being in the top 20 countries. Smoking is connected to 85 percent of all lung cancers. Men dominate this percentage, landing Poland another spot in the top seven countries. The OECD says the adult smoking rate in Poland is about 40 percent for men, which is about 16 percent higher than the OECD average. As a consequence, the rate of lung cancer – specifically in men – is exceptionally high, keeping Poland as one of the most-affected countries. The country has experienced a 2 percent rise over the last decade.

In response to these numbers, the WHO’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases aims to reduce the overall mortality rate from cancer by 25 percent. Objectives include prevention, control, high-quality research and evaluation. The decrease in cancer cases is set to be achieved by 2025.

Recognizing common diseases in Poland is critical to improving the well-being of its citizens. All of these noncommunicable diseases share increased prevalence, inadequate health care or preventable behavior. The WHO Global NCD Action Plan will use this information to create and monitor progress. Once this is completed, we will hopefully see a decrease in these diseases.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Google

Human Rights in PolandPoland has been a liberal democracy ever since it transitioned from communism in 1989. It is a nation that enjoys free and fair elections and civil liberties protections; however, there is a strong partisan divide in Poland. The Law and Justice Party has become skeptical of the efficacy of liberal democracy; it has enacted a number of authoritarian reforms, enhancing the power of the party and undermining checks and balances enshrined in the Polish constitution. Here are seven facts about human rights in Poland:

  1. Speech is free in Poland, but there are some limitations. A person with a public platform can be fined and even jailed for promoting anti-government activity, amorality and disrespect for religion. However, these restrictions are rarely enforced.
  2. Freedom of the press is a constitutional human right in Poland, but recent laws enacted by Poland’s governing party have limited that freedom. Starting in 2017, journalists must be pre-approved in order to interview legislators in the halls of Parliament. The Law and Justice Party has also made moves to have more influence on public media. The party amended Polish law so that the treasurer has the power to choose the heads of public media, rather than an independent board. Polish public media officials were quickly replaced with Law and Justice party officials after the amendment was passed.
  3. Roma, LGBT and Muslim communities experience frequent discrimination in Poland. In 2016, violent hate crimes rose by 40 percent and most of these attacks targeted Muslims. Despite this, Poland has shut down its Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.
  4. Women have equal rights in Poland, but domestic violence and sex trafficking are still significant issues. The Polish government recently defunded the Women’s Rights Center, which had played a major role in aiding female victims of domestic violence. Polish officials have claimed that they shut down the institution because it did nothing to help the male victims of domestic violence.
  5. Poland has been going through a constitutional crisis, as the Law and Justice Party has taken steps that increase the power of the party and reduce the power of the Constitutional Tribunal – the nation’s highest court. The crisis began when the Law and Justice Party refused to seat five judges appointed to the court by the previous ruling party, and instead nominated their own. The tribunal ruled this act unconstitutional, but the government refused to release the ruling, making it technically non-binding. The Polish government has passed several laws designed to make the tribunal run less efficiently, and has appointed party ally Julia Przyłębska to be president of the tribunal. These actions have raised concerns among the EU and the U.S. that the Polish government is eroding democratic checks and balances.
  6. In 2016, Poland passed a counter-terrorism law that gives the government far-reaching surveillance powers. The law allows for the government to wiretap and monitor the communications of people the government fears might be involved in terrorism-related activities. The government has the power to continue these activities for three months without oversight, as well as use illegally obtained evidence in court and detain suspects for up to two weeks.
  7. Polish prisons fail to meet the standards set by other European countries. The minimum legal size of a jail cell in Poland is 32 square feet, which falls below the internationally recognized standard. Many prisons are in need of renovations and lack adequate healthcare and accommodations for prisoners with disabilities.

Though the Polish ruling party is encroaching on the nation’s civil liberties, there are still actions that can be taken to protect human rights in Poland. Poland still has free and fair elections, and if that remains unchanged, the Polish people have the power to democratically reject these illiberal reforms by voting in candidates that promise to restore power to the Constitutional Tribunal. The EU also has the power to sanction Poland if it goes too far – something it threatened to do last month in the face of efforts to stack the Constitutional Tribunal with even more party allies. Both of these situations should bring hope to the people of Poland, as it makes the improvement of their human rights a very possible outcome of the future.

Carson Hughes