Children born in poverty have a life expectancy that is an average of 10 years shorter, while the cost of alcohol-related ills is four to five times higher than excise revenue, said doctors at today's Development Fund conference.
Health scholar and psychiatrist Anu Kasmel, who presented the Estonian Medical Association's recommendations on how to promote economic growth by improving the national health, said poverty and alcohol were the big two problems. In addition, she said, twice as many people died in Estonia due to injury than in other countries in Europe.
A total of 30 million euros is spent each year on treating injuries from on the job accidents and health-related behaviours.
"Economic losses due to poor health are high," she concluded.
Ardo Reinsalu, the director of a private hospital, built on Kasmel's presentation by noting that the waiting list to be seen by a doctor in some cases was 3-9 months, a period in which the person was not capable of working and where their condition could get worse.
Another fact noted was that 60 percent of children living in poverty will need greater benefits later in life. "We have to think how to reduce social inequality," said Kasmel. She said the difference between the top and bottom 10 percent of incomes is among the greatest in Europe.
The recommendations of the Medical Association:
* Alcohol advertising should be more strictly regulated.
* Pricing is the best and fastest way to influence alcohol consumption.
* Reducing points of sale will have the greatest effect on availability of alcohol among the young.
* Companies and state sector must work hand in hand on the issue of children's poverty. There could be a register of the poorest families and affluent families, where cooperation would be possible.
* The Cabinet-level priority must be on creating an environment supportive of children and increasing child benefits
* One way of closing the social gap would be to establish an progressive income tax.
* Compensation of housing loans for young families would influence the birth rate.
* Raising the minimum wage would fight social inequality.