Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe with a population of approximately 9.5 million people. Before gaining independence in 1991, Belarus was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. The country had maintained strong economic and political relations with Russia for much of its post-independence history. Aleksandr Lukashenko, elected president in 1994, remains in power today. Despite sharp economic fluctuations in recent decades, Belarus is considered an upper-middle-income economy by the World Bank, and its GDP per capita was an estimated $18,900 in 2017. Belarus spent around 5.9% of the total size of its economy in the health sector in 2017 — slightly more than the 5.5% the nation invested from 2010 to 2014. To learn more about this important topic, here are five facts about healthcare in Belarus.
5 Facts about Healthcare in Belarus
- Experts estimate Life expectancy at birth in Belarus for women and men at 79.2 years and 69.3 years, respectively. This ranking grants the country a ranking of 139th in the world. Additionally, physician density, the number of physicians per 1,000 persons — stands at 0.00519 as of 2015. Hospital bed density is similarly modest, amounting to 10.8 beds per 1,000 persons as of 2014.
- The Ministry of Health directs the Belarusian healthcare system. The Ministry of Health centralizes, stratifies and operates the country’s healthcare system. Also, the Ministry of Health is solely involved in all matters related to creating and implementing healthcare policies and programs — as well as playing a significant role in pharmaceutical regulation. Individual regions fund primary and secondary care, while the Ministry of Health funds tertiary services. Notably, general taxation funds healthcare in Belarus.
- Belarus utilizes universal healthcare. Healthcare in Belarus is mostly provided through government-owned facilities, allowing citizens to receive free services. Moreover, the percentage of out-of-pocket expenses relative to total health expenditures has traditionally been low. For instance, in 2017, this figure reached approximately 27.5%. The breadth of access to primary care providers and inpatient care services depends on citizens’ geographical location, except for emergency services.
- Preventable habits and diseases represent major health concerns. Alcohol, tobacco, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are all lifestyle-induced conditions posing major health risks to the citizens of Belarus. With an average of 17.5 liters per person, Belarus ranks among the top 10 countries with the highest rates of annual alcohol consumption. Tobacco use is similarly prevalent. For example, in 2011, 50.4% of men and 10.2% of women reported smoking, daily. Tuberculosis (TB) is another disease that has imposed a significant threat in terms of public health in Belarus. More than 9,000 diagnoses occurred in 2011; approximately 25% of those patients had multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB. This represents a strain of TB that is highly resistant to drugs and may cause death. The country also ranks 75th for the number of people living with HIV/AIDS, estimated at 27,000.
- Efficiency in delivering healthcare services is problematic. Not only is there a shortage of professionals at primary care facilities, but the overuse of healthcare facilities is also a key concern. Moreover, many areas rely on healthcare professionals who are either still in training or preparing for retirement. This means that their capacity to serve is limited. Also, the industry in Belarus pays Healthcare workers noticeably less, compared with neighboring countries.
Room for Improvement
These facts indicate that the healthcare system in Belarus is generally effective in terms of coverage and guaranteeing medical services to all. However, there remain significant areas where healthcare in Belarus needs improvement. For example, some suggestions include implementing better management, tackling the health risks associated with heavy alcohol and tobacco consumption and providing better pay for healthcare workers. With these improvements, healthcare in Belarus can better the lives of thousands of citizens, nationwide.
– Oumaima Jaayfer