Ukraine came into focus of international journalists when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Since then, most media coverage of the country has centered on the raging war in the country and reports of the military efforts, diplomatic attempts at peace or humanitarian efforts to help civilians.
Despite the lack of publicity on other relevant topics in the country, Ukraine has made significant steps in improving the quality of treatment and health care available to its citizens, improving the life expectancy consequently. In the text below, top 10 facts about life expectancy in Ukraine are presented.
10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Ukraine
- Non-infections diseases, not war or famine, are the largest cause of death in the country. Sixty-three percent of all deaths are caused by cardiovascular diseases followed by cancer-related deaths at 15 percent and chronic respiratory diseases as the third largest problem that causes 2 percent of deaths.
- Ukraine has a low rate of obesity. Around 79 percent of Ukrainians get the proper amount of exercise in their life and only one in four people suffer from obesity. In comparison to some other countries, such as the United States, this is a relatively low number. Although heart diseases are common, unhealthy weight is not their primary cause.
- People in the country often live up to their seventies, but the gender-gap in lifespan is high. Ukrainian women reach 77 years on average, whereas men reach 68 years on average. This nine-year lifespan gap among genders is almost double higher than the five-year disparity seen in most Western countries. As men consume three times as much alcohol as women do and are over four times as likely to smoke, bad-habits provide likely explanations for this occurrence.
- Smoking and lung cancer that is mainly directly caused by smoking, are declining among men. At the start of the 2000s, over 60 percent of Ukrainian men were smokers, while only 10 percent of women smoke. Over the past 16 years, smoking’s popularity has dropped to 49 percent among men in 2011. The rate of lung cancer fell by similar percentages over these years.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) and Ukrainian Ministry of Health have partnered to educate caregivers and inform citizens about health care. Two-day training courses have been delivered to 10,000 health professionals, greatly improving the quality of medical treatment.
- Access to medicine and primary medical care has also improved. Medical care in Ukraine used to be very expensive as out-of-pocket payments made up almost half of total payments. In 2017, Management Sciences for Health helped implement a state reimbursement program, reducing the prices of 157 brands that treat heart diseases, asthma, diabetes, and other serious conditions. Out of this number, 23 of the brands are available at little or no cost.
- School changes are reducing high-risk behavior. Starting in 2015, as a proactive measure to foster better habits, schools have changed curriculum to address disease risks and to provide healthier meal options.
- The Ukrainian government has doubled its AIDS response budget. In 2017, after a successful advocacy campaign, the government increased its response budget by 132 percent, providing over 107,000 people with life-saving medicine.
- As many as 178 clinics help opiate addicts recover. After international funding was cut in 2017, the Ukrainian government took over funding for opiate substitution clinics. Providing 10,000 recovering addicts with methadone and similar drugs as they are weaned off of narcotics, this makes the program largest of its kind in the region.
- Tuberculosis patients do not longer live in quarantine. Under the former systems, patients faced years of hospital quarantine until they were cured. Now PATH, medical nongovernmental organization, advocates for patent rights and provides technical and moral support to patients as they cope with the harsh side effects of their medication.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in Ukraine paint a very different, oddly more familiar, picture than the headlines do.
The primary causes of early death in the country are not famine and conflict, but the same ones that are found in many high-income countries: heart diseases and cancer.
Fortunately, these “old hat” problems have been resolved before and Ukraine, with the continuous work that is being done, will have similar success, given time.
– John Glade