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OECD Reviews of Public Health: Latvia

A Healthier Tomorrow

image of OECD Reviews of Public Health: Latvia

Latvia sees high rates of obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption. In turn, this results in a high incidence of preventable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and many cancers. This puts a burden on a health system which is already operating on a very tight budget as compared to other OECD countries. This OECD report shows that Latvia has many of the policies it needs to address these problems in place. However, Latvia needs to go further to ensure the health system can effectively prevent diseases, not just cure them. This will require redesigning policies to reach a larger population and efforts to educate the population to understand how to protect their health. Better screening programmes are needed, as is a stronger primary care sector, and access to essential medicines for all Latvians.

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Executive summary

Latvia is facing a dual challenge of a considerable public health burden and limited resources to address it. Latvia has high rates of smoking, harmful alcohol consumption and obesity, leading to a high burden of non-communicable diseases. These factors contribute to Latvia having the lowest life expectancy in the OECD, at 74.9 years versus the OECD average of 80.7 years. At the same time, resources for the health system are limited. Latvia has one of the lowest levels of health spending in the OECD, both in terms of per capita expenditure (USD PPP 1 924 compared to an OECD average of USD PPP 4 170) and as a percentage of GDP (6.2% in Latvia versus 8.9% in the OECD).

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