A not so healthy glance at EU health

More are obese, more are demented and more have HIV -- but some things are looking up

More than doubling over the last 20 years in most EU Member States, obesity has considerable implications for health, health systems and the economy. Over half our adult population is now overweight or obese, according to the joint European Commission and OECD report "Health at a Glance: Europe 2010".

Photo: A not so healthy glance at EU health

The report presents key trends on health, health systems and health spending in the 27 EU Member States, plus the three European Free Trade Association countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and Turkey.
Compiling data from the OECD, Eurostat and the WHO, the report shows that the prevalence of obesity alone ranges from less than 10% in Romania and Italy to over 20% in the UK, Ireland and Malta. On average, just over 15% of the EU adult population is obese.

Currently, 1 in 7 children in the EU are overweight or obese - and the figures are set to rise even further.
There are fewer heart disease deaths, but it is still has the highest mortality rate, accounting for 40% of all deaths in Europe in 2008.

Newly-diagnosed cases of HIV more than doubled between 2000 and 2008. HIV prevalence estimates were highest in countries with high AIDS incidence rates, namely Estonia, Latvia, Portugal and Spain.
Inevitably, the link is strong between the prevalence of dementia and population ageing; the number of over 65-year-olds is expected to double between 1995 and 2050.

The shortage of doctors is a cause for concern in many European countries. Health spending has risen in all EU Member States, often increasing at a faster rate than economic growth. In 2008, EU Member States spent, on average, 8.3% of their GDP on health, up from 7.3% in 1998.

Now the good news: In the UK the number of doctors per capita rose by 30% between 2000-2008 (from 2.0 per 1,000 population to 2.6). Ireland saw a 50% rise. Why? Partly due to increased recruitment of foreign-trained doctors.  Life expectancy at birth in the EU increased from 72 years in 1980 to 78 years in 2007.  On average, women spend 75% of their life without disabilities, for men it is 80%.

The number of premature deaths has reduced dramatically. Mortality rates in Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have fallen by over 30%, a decline greater than the EU average. Ireland’s mortality rates have fallen by over 50%.

EC and OECD conclusion: ‘There is no better or worse health system; each system has strengths and weaknesses. The aim of providing comparable data is to give countries the possibility to learn from each other, to gain efficiency and to improve the health of their populations.’

Further details: http://ec.europa.eu/health/reports/european or www.oecd.org/health/healthataglance/europe


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