A new report comparing health in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) new Member States in 1990/1991 and 2000/2001 has found that the reforms that were put in place during the transition years have resulted in a decrease in mortality attributable to the quality of care provided by health systems. The report published by the Institut des Sciences de la Santé (ISS) argues that these improvements, which have resulted in better access to pharmaceuticals and better hospital care, are visible both in the case of treatable diseases and preventable conditions.
Speakers at a conference launching the report argued on 29 November, however, that investment in health must continue as there continues to exist a significant gap between the EU-15 and the new CEE members. For instance, in 2001, a Hungarian man could expect to live almost eight years less than men on average in the EU-15 but over nine years less than a Swedish man. A Latvian men in the same year lived 11.4 years less than the EU-15 average and more than 13 years less than a Swedish man. The report, which also examined mortality in the two candidate countries scheduled to join the EU in 2007, has found that a Romanian woman would have lived on average seven years less in 2001 than her counterparts in the EU-15.
The ISS has urged the EU to invest more in the healthcare systems of the new member states through the structural funds and programmes of the European Investment Bank.
The authors of the report draw attention to preventable deaths, which are mainly due to lifestyle factors, such as the abuse of tobacco or alcohol use, as well as traffic accidents. The authors highlight effective policies, such as the comprehensive tobacco control legislation in Poland (1995), which they claim accounts for an estimated one third of the recent increase in life expectancy at birth in that country.
The authors argue strongly in favour of better co-ordination among the member states to enhance the exchange of best practice.