ECONOMY

Life expectancy, health spending are expanding

Health spending may be high in Greece, but state expenditure on health remains low, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Spending on health in Greece accounts for 10 percent of gross domestic product, which is higher than the OECD average by 1.1 percent. The USA leads the way with 15.3 percent of GDP, followed by Switzerland (11.6 percent) and Germany (10.9 percent). Total health expenditure per capita reaches $2,250 (1,760 euros) in OECD countries, with Greece coming in just below the average, at $2,162 (1,700 euros) per person. In the 1999-2004 period, the growth rate of per capita expenditure in real terms came to 5.2 percent. This rise in spending was mainly due to more money being spent on pharmaceutical products. In 2004, more than a sixth of all health spending (17.4 percent) went toward drugs. The contribution of the state is the main source of funding for health expenditure. Greece, however, has the smallest portion of health funding in Europe, standing at 53 percent in 2004, compared with 80 percent in the UK and in Scandinavian countries. Greece also has the highest number of doctors per thousand people than any other OECD country, at 4.9 doctors in 2004, while the number of nurses per thousand people stood at 3.8 in the same year, far below the OECD average of 8.3 nurses per thousand people. The last decade saw huge progress in diagnosis methods, such as tomography and other more advanced scanning methods. The number of tomographs keeps rising in Greece, reaching 17.1 units per million people, which is very close to the OECD average. Greece has registered significant progress in life expectancy, too, having risen to above the OECD average (79 years against 78.3 years in other OECD states). Life expectancy in excess of 80 years is recorded in Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Austria, Spain and France. Child mortality rates have dropped to low levels in Greece, at 4.1 deaths per thousand people, against 5.7 deaths in the OECD countries. The lowest child mortality rates are found in the Scandinavian countries, Japan and Iceland. The bad news for Greece comes in the number of adult smokers, at 38.6 percent the highest among OECD countries, whose equivalent rates show a decline; their average is 13 percentage points below Greece’s rate. Australia, Canada, Sweden and the US have made significant progress in cutting tobacco consumption, taking the portion of habitual smokers to below 18 percent.