Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Finland
Finland is a Northern European nation bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia. Since joining the EU in 1995, the country has overcome an economic downturn and its universal healthcare system has been cited by prominent political leaders as a positive example. The unemployment rate is at 7.6 percent, slightly higher than the EU average of 6.8 percent.

Attractions include the views of the Northern Lights, which can be seen best between September and April. and Finland is the EU’s third most expensive country. The nation administers universal healthcare and utilizes income, property and sales tax to cover the cost. Here are 10 facts about living conditions in Finland.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Finland

  1. In Finland, about 83 percent percent of people say that they feel safe walking alone at night. In fact, Finland’s homicide rate is 1.4 percent.
  2. The life expectancy for women is 83.5 years and 77.5 years for men. Twenty-one percent of Finland’s population is over the age of 65, and the lower life expectancy for men is attributed to men declining medical help for conditions, and for lifestyle choices that lead to cardiovascular disease. There is also a high death rate due to alcohol-related deaths among men.
  3. The child mortality rate in Finland is 4 percent, one of the lowest in the world. It was not always this way; in the 1930s, one in ten children died in their first year of life. This caused the government to provide maternity packages in 1949. These resource bundles contained baby supplies such as clothes, toys and blankets. Today, maternity clinics are available to all people, regardless of income.
  4. One in 10 young families with small children reported being food insecure. While they have access to stores, this family demographic reports being unable to afford groceries. The income level is statistically lower in families whose parents have completed less education. In 2015 and 2017, the country decreased its allotment for child allowances, which is a stipend that goes toward every legal resident in Finland until age 17.
  5. Sixty-nine percent of people aged 15 to 64 are employed. Around four percent of employees work very long hours. Finland has high completion rates: 88 percent of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education. In this regard, Finland’s possesses one of the most accomplished education systems in the world, as its standardized test scores are among the highest of the European nations.
  6. Finland spends less than 7 percent of its gross national product on healthcare. This expenditure is one of the lowest rates among EU members. The public sector finances 76 percent of total healthcare costs through tax dollars. With this resource, every resident citizen of Finland receives free healthcare.
  7. In 2017, the country began a two-year-long basic income experiment. The government provided unemployed participants with 560 euros per month for the duration of the experiment. Initial results suggested the experiment left people happier, but still unemployed, and their impetus for finding a job may have been removed. The full report of results will be available within the next year.
  8. In 2017, the country allotted 10 million euros to help train 2,500 immigrants to find skilled labor jobs within three years. Despite this success, local residents argue that Finland can improve the integration of migrant women and children into its workforce and society to boost the economy and social standards.
  9. Finland’s average monthly salary is 3,300 euros. Meanwhile half of working people in Finland earn less than the median of 2,900 euros per month.
  10. On March 8, 2019, Finland’s entire government resigned due to an inability to achieve welfare and healthcare reform. With its aging population, it is difficult for the nation to maintain the current policies — a decision that “hugely disappointed” Prime Minister Juha Sipila. However, Antti Kaikkonen, a senior member of the Center Party, showed support of the decision, saying it is an example of “political responsibility.” The current government will remain in office in a low capacity until the general elections in April.

Promoting a High Quality of Life

Finland has been a leader among the EU in experimental policies — such as the basic income experiment — maternity packages and child allowance. The recent resignation of their government is another example of their willingness to deviate from the norm in support of ensuring the best living conditions for Finnish people.

Ava Gambero
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in BelizeBelize is one of the seven nations located in Central America and has the lowest population density of any country in the region, numbering approximately 380,848 in 2018. In recent years, the government has decided to prioritize healthcare in Belize. In order to do so, a plan has been put into action to help in this endeavor.

In April of 2014, the Ministry of Health in Belize released the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan for 2014-2024. This was done in part to show the commitment that the government has made to improve the health and livelihood of its citizens, as well as to create clear milestones for the government to reach in its pursuit to have a healthier Belize in the future. In this plan, the government identified the six pillars required to improve healthcare in Belize: governance and leadership, service delivery, financing, human resource in health, health information systems and medicines and technology.

Some main areas of focus are maternal health, child mortality rates and infant mortality rates in Belize. Belize has been working to improve the health of women and children and had already been providing mobile and community clinics that treat the leading causes of mortality in women even before the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan was developed.

These efforts were reflected in the data presented in the plan, which shows that between 2003 and 2012 the child mortality rate dropped from 21 deaths per 1,000 live births to 18.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. During this same time frame, the maternal mortality rate dropped from 82 deaths per 1,000 live births to 41.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. Though these are significant decreases in both child and maternal mortality rates, the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan has a proposed target of 10 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

In order to reach this new goal, the government of Belize has been making infrastructural advancements to its health sector. One example of this is the opening of the Chunox Polyclinic. The official inauguration ceremony for the polyclinic was held on February 16, 2018, and it is hoped that the opening of this clinic will help to reduce the maternal and child morbidity and mortality rates in Chunox, Progreso, Sarteneja, Copper Bank, Little Belize, Fire Burn and Newland and other surrounding communities.

Some of the other advances that the government hopes will come from the opening of the Chunox Polyclinic include a reduction in water-borne, food-borne and vector-borne diseases, as well as communicable and non-communicable diseases. The clinic cost an estimated $979,219 and was funded in part by a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank, with the rest of the funding provided by the government of Belize.

This increased effort from the government of Belize to improve the health of both women and children is just one way in which the nation is attempting to improve its health sector overall. With the continued efforts of the government to meet the milestones that it has set for itself in the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan, continued improvements for healthcare in Belize can be expected.

– Nicole C. Stout

Photo: Flickr

Tanzania-Child-Survival-GoalMillennium Development Goal 4: “Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.”

Tanzania is one of the only African countries that has achieved this goal. There is much to celebrate with the country’s accomplishment; however, we must not ignore other critical areas of work that need prioritization. A thorough analysis of the efforts in Tanzania is important to understand what strategies have been effective in the region.

Successes in Tanzania

  • Reduction in child deaths after first month of life
  • 12,500 lives saved thanks to vaccines
  • 9,300 lives saved from malaria programs
  • 5,800 lives saved from HIV/AIDS programs

Areas for Improvement

  • Maternal and newborn survival can be improved
  • Reduction of stillbirths needed
  • Low contraceptive use in Western and Lake Zones
  • Rural poor lack access to health services
  • Shortage of health workers

The achievement of MDG4 is significant in Tanzania. Child deaths after one month of life have decreased at a rate of 8 percent per year during the last decade. This is 50 percent faster than in the 1990s.

Most lives have been saved from programs that increase access to vaccines, address malaria and work to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS. These types of programs have received the most funding, and therefore these results should be expected.

In Tanzania, 40 percent of national child deaths are newborns. This indicates a need to improve health services in the critical time surrounding childbirth.

Rural women are twice as likely to deliver their children in private homes versus health facilities. Estimates indicate that Tanzania needs 23 health workers per 10,000 people, but Tanzania currently only has five health workers per 10,000 people.

It is evident that portions of the population have not benefitted from some of the improvements Tanzania has experienced as a country. The identification of these categories of people is critical in order to further decrease mortality rates in the country.

High mortality rates slow the rate of development of entire communities and prevent poverty-stricken families from obtaining enough resources to support themselves.

The good news is that this case study of Tanzania estimates that “60,000 lives could be saved each year with intensified efforts to achieve universal access to essential health services.”

Iliana Lang

Sources: WHO, The Lancet, UNDP
Photo: Global Post

According to the World Health Organization, 9.2 million children under the age of 5 die every year, many from preventable conditions that could be treated with simple healthcare interventions. The majority of these deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where the child mortality rate is 175 per 1000 (compared to 6 per 1000 in industrialized countries).

Many of the diseases that kill children younger than 5-years-old are caused by lack of access to healthcare facilities, improper hygiene and sanitation, unclean water and not enough food, and low levels of education and information. The top three causes of child mortality are:

1. Pneumonia
About 15 percent of child mortality deaths are caused by pneumonia. In 2013, pneumonia killed an estimated 935,000 children under the age of 5. Pneumonia occurs when the air sacs in the lungs, the alveoli, are filled with pus and fluid. This makes breathing difficult, and does not allow the infected person to intake enough oxygen. Those who are malnourished have weaker immune systems and are therefore at a higher risk of dying from pneumonia. Pneumonia is also more likely to affect those who have pre-existing illnesses such as HIV, who live in an area where levels of indoor air pollution are high because of cooking with biomass fuels like wood or dung, who live in crowded homes, or those who have parents who smoke. While pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, only one third of the children infected with pneumonia get the antibiotics necessary to cure them.

2. Diarrhoeal Disease
Each year, diarrhea kills 760,000 children under the age of 5. It is caused by unclean drinking water, contaminated food or person-to-person contact and poor hygiene. Malnourished children are more susceptible to diarrhea, and children in developing countries are likely to contract at least three cases of diarrhea each year. Since diarrhea leads to malnourishment, those who are already weakened by the disease are likely to contract it again. Diarrhea then leads to severe dehydration, which leads to death. It can be treated with rehydration zinc supplements. A good method of preventing diarrhea is decreasing levels of malnutrition, therefore making children less likely to be infected with the disease.

3. Malaria
In Africa, a child dies every minute from malaria, a disease caused by parasites. These parasites are transmitted to people from mosquito bites. The symptoms are first expressed as fever, chills and vomiting, and can then progress to severe illness and death if not treated within 24 hours. Malaria is preventable through the use of mosquito nets and levels of deaths caused by malaria are decreasing. Malaria related mortality cases in Africa have fallen 54 percent since 2000.

Child mortality is also high in countries that have a high Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). More than a third of child mortality deaths occur in the first month of life and are related to pre-term birth, birth asphyxia (suffocation), and infections. In order to reduce Child Mortality, Maternal Mortality rates also have to decrease. This can happen with increased access to healthcare facilities and increased prenatal visits.

Child mortality rates are decreasing, but there is still work to be done. Vaccinations, adequate nutrition and increasing education will all help to decrease the levels of child mortality.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: WHO 1, WHO 2, WHO 3, WHO 4
Photo: Flickr

World Bank Funding
In an effort to improve conditions for the Lao governments’ maternal and health services, The World Bank Funding has gone to Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s (PDR) Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project on June 23. The International Development Association gave $26.4 million to Lao PDR with the approval of the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. The World Bank expects the fund to affect 1 million women and children in the next 5 years.

Free maternal health was initiated in Lao PDR to open financial gateways. Around 60% of women are not inclined to have more children. Now, with the project’s increase in funding, the number of women receiving family planning, care visits, and birth attendants is likely to increase.

Women need to be educated and consult healthcare workers in order to protect their bodies from disease and diminish the probability of birth mortality or miscarriages. With Lao PDR’s Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project funded by World Bank, health care services will be made more available and survival rates are expected to excel.

A report by Lancet Commission on Women and Health has tracked the consequences of women’s low socioeconomic status. With the input of social science professionals, program managers, policy innovators and advocates, connections between the role of women in systems, homes and communities have been founded to be most beneficial when they are given value and proper compensation. Women create sustainable nations when they are inclined to contribute to the well-being of all.

Additionally, the development of nutritional strategies is underway. Almost half of the children in the country, under the age of 5, are underweight. The Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project is determined to utilize its funding in services to children under the age of 14 by providing adequate nutrition and target infant feeding practices to improve behaviors in regards to nutritional intake.

The country’s economy has experienced vast progress thanks to foreign aid. In addition to $26.4 million, $11.6 million was also implemented into Lao PDR’s Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) on June 23.

In financing PRF, a program started by Lao PDR in 2002, about 200 particular plans are in place to enhance education and health. The additional funding approved by The Word Bank helps prolong nutritional pilot projects and governmental sanitation programs.

PRF’s overall goal is to improve mobility and the use of public services among poverty-stricken populations in Lao PDR. The further development of roads and water resources is also a focus.

The poverty rates for Lao PDR fell from 46% in 1992 to 27.6% in 2008. This is a drastic feat towards satisfying the millennium goal of halving poverty by 2015. Life expectancy has also increased by 19 years. Since October 2011, PRF has improved conditions for 450 thousand Lao PDR residents. PRF has also improved the use of healthcare and safe water systems.

Following the millennium goals according to the 8th draft of the National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) will hopefully result in the improvement of the country’s status by 2020.

– Katie Groe

Sources: World Bank 1, World Bank 2 WHO, UNDP Impatient Optimist
Photo: Swiss Cooperation

In 2000, the United Nations came up with the Millennium Development Goals, a list of things the world wanted to accomplish in impoverished countries by the year 2015. Rwanda in particular has been reported to have reached one of these goals: reducing child mortality by two-thirds. In 2000, when the goal was made, 90 children died before age five in every 1,000 live births. Now, the average is 46—the equivalent of 17,000 fewer deaths per day.

Rwandans can now say they have the highest average annual reduction of child mortality rates in comparison to other countries who are striving to reach the same goal. It is believed that in total, 590,000 children have been saved since the MDGs initiative was implemented. UNICEF has regarded this accomplishment as “one of the most significant achievements in human history.”

In order to see how this goal was met, BBC News spoke with public health researcher Claire Wagner, Jose Manuel Roche of Save the Children U.K., Randy Wilson of Management Science for Health and Dr. Fidele Ngabo, who is the head of the division for maternity, child and community health in Rwanda.

Dr. Ngabo believes that training and hiring more health workers played a significant role in reducing the rate of child mortality. “We had four top killers – malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition – diseases which can be treated by simple intervention,” Ngabo explained. “So we selected 45,000 community health workers at each village so when the children are sick, instead of spending one or two hours going to a health facility, the community health workers can give the treatment in less than 10 minutes.”

Wilson hopes that his company’s introduction of a text-message system called “RapidSMS” also helped reduce the rate of child and maternal deaths. Doctors were trained to use the text-messaging system to communicate quickly and efficiently about their patients so that actions can be decided on immediately if needed. Reducing delays in treatment reduces preventable deaths.

Wagner, who works for Rwanda’s Minister for Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, credits Dr. Binagwaho for working hard to save lives.

“Fifteen years ago when Rwanda actually launched its community-based health insurance program, it gave the first health insurance to Rwanda’s poorest million inhabitants, which is a signal to the world that this is going to be a new health sector that is focused on local ownership of the country’s future. Ninety-eight percent of Rwandans are now covered,” said Wagner. “The minister will always say that ‘if you give me a penny to help my grandmother, I’ll make sure that it also works for my granddaughter.’ She ensures that all of the investments that are coming in should go to build a strong health system.”

This accomplishment is excellent news for Rwanda, and hopefully other countries will follow suit and take similar actions to reach the MDGs.

Melissa Binns
Sources: BBC, United Nations
Photo: Flickr