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World Health Stat Q. 1993;46(3):158-65.

Health in the central and eastern countries of the WHO European Region: an overview.


The enormous social, political and economic changes that began in the CCEE/NIS in the late 1980s included the revelation and public discussion of a widening health gap between these countries and the other Member States of the European Region. The continuing economic problems and their effects on health increase the urgency of the need for assistance from the international community. Diverging trends in life expectancy became evident in the mid-1970s, and the gap continued to widen in the 1980s for all major causes of death, particularly cardiovascular diseases. The situation is worse in the NIS than in the CCEE, and worst in the central Asian countries. In 1990, the worst infant mortality rate in these countries was eight times the best rate elsewhere in the Region. Non-mortality data, while patchy, confirm the indications given by mortality data. There is no single reason for the health gap, but contributory factors include the increasing prevalence of major risk factors in lifestyles and the environment, and the low efficiency and effectiveness of health care systems. The current situation and short-term prospects are mixed, but the negative trends in mortality and morbidity patterns are likely to continue for some time. While the worst health problems of the transition period in the CCEE/NIS could largely have been avoided, there is no doubt that economizing on health today will exact large costs tomorrow.

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