Report: enlargement has cut mortality in new members

A new report argues that the process of accession to the EU has
contributed to lower levels
of deaths attributable to the quality of medical
care in the Central and Eastern European new
members. 

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.

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