Healthcare in Finland
For years, many have considered healthcare in Finland to be among the best in the world. This “decentralized, three-level, publicly funded” universal health care system is so successful because of its funding sources at both the national and local levels and because of the system’s focus on disease prevention.

While Finland’s healthcare system is similar to other Nordic countries in that it offers universal coverage, the Finnish system focuses more on the local care distributed through municipalities, with National Health Insurance. Organized and delivered primarily at the local level, much of Finland’s healthcare centers around municipalities. This decentralized system also serves to improve healthcare for each citizen. Currently, there are around 6,000 residents per municipality in Finland and 348 municipalities total. The municipal taxes these residents pay go directly towards their healthcare.

Efficient Funding

In 2015, Finland spent 9.4% of its GDP on health, which is an increase from 8% in 2005 but still falls slightly below the E.U. average of 9.9%. Nonetheless, health spending per capita in Finland exceeded the average in the E.U., meaning that Finland, on average, spends more on health per capita than other E.U. nations. This is an important consideration when understanding why Finland’s healthcare system is so successful: it spends less overall, but more on each individual citizen.

Better Resources

Physical and human resources help to drive health care prosperity in Finland. Since 2000, the number of doctors and nurses has risen dramatically. The ratio of nurses to population is the second-highest in the E.U. after Denmark while the ratio of doctors is 3.2 per 1,000 constituents. While the number of hospital beds has decreased, this allows Finland to have a “higher number of diagnostic and treatment equipment per capita” than other nations in the E.U., giving Finland some of the best-equipped hospitals in the E.U.

Changing Societal Behaviors and Attitudes

Beyond tangible improvements including funding and improved resources, societal attitudes around health have possibly allowed healthcare in Finland to succeed. Smoking rates have sharply fallen since 2000, becoming the third-lowest among all E.U. countries. Meanwhile, Finland had the fourth-highest rate of binge drinking, the rapid consumption of six or more alcoholic drinks, in the E.U. in 2014.

In 2014, Finland developed a goal of creating a Smoke-Free Finland by the year 2040 in order to reduce societal and behavioral risks. The country plans to accomplish this goal with a gradual increase in taxes on tobacco products as well as using unbranded packaging, making its products less tempting to the consumer. This goal will also involve the imposition of smoking bans in certain environments so as to encourage smokers to at least pause their behavior while in “smoke-free habitats,” like beaches, residential housing and playgrounds. In addition, the plan will offer better healthcare to those planning on quitting.

The government is working to reduce alcohol consumption as well. A state monopoly has made the availability of alcohol in grocery stores scarce, with 5.5% as the maximum alcohol-per-volume that stores can sell.

Preventative Measures

Finland’s efforts to prevent diseases, particularly long-term prevention of cardiovascular diseases, have served to greatly reduce premature mortality and increase life expectancies. Active community-based prevention in North Karelia, a province of Finland, began in 1972. Since 1977, active preventive work has spread nationwide. North Karelia’s community-based approach served as a model for the integrated prevention of noncommunicable diseases. It focused on intervention through education, changing others’ perceptions of target risk factors and good health behaviors nationwide. North Karelia saw drastic reductions in deaths from cardiovascular diseases and lower general cholesterol levels.

This decentralized system with a focus on cost-effectiveness and prevention of diseases enables Finland to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Finland’s calculated spending on health and overall focus on the bettering of its society allows most citizens to have positive perceptions of health and of healthy behaviors. The access each citizen has to healthcare ensures that every Finnish person can receive care when they need it.

Olivia Fish
Photo: Pixabay

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