NIHD: Health, welfare inequality remains high across Estonian counties

Hospital beds.
Hospital beds. Source: Andres Tennus/University of Tartu

There are significant regional differences in the field of health and welfare in Estonia, it appears from county overviews published by the National Institute for Health Development (NIHD) on Wednesday.

"General trends are similar in several places in Estonia: the small growth in life expectancy in the last ten years, ageing of the population, an increase in the share of overweight and obese residents," said Maali Käbin, senior specialist at the NIHD. "Some progress has been made in reducing the number of deaths caused by accidents and the mortality rate of residents below the age of 65, but we are still at the forefront in Europe in terms of deaths caused by injuries. In all counties, there is an exceptionally low rate of people who eat a sufficient amount of vegetables and fruit."

Käbin said that for such a small country, there is relatively high inequality across counties. For example, if we look at the number of healthy years for men, then it ranges from 62 years in Lääne County to 42 years in Põlva County. The people of Lääne County consider their health the best, of whom altogether 64 percent consider their health good, while residents of Ida-Viru County consider their health to be the worst with 28.5 percent. Sexually transmitted diseases, except HIV, are diagnosed most in Pärnu County and least in Hiiu County. Most overweight adults live in Võru and Põlva counties, while the least live in Harju County. The residents of islands have the highest sense of security, while the lowest sense of security is in Ida-Viru County and Harju County. There is great variability when it comes to topics concerning internal security: crime, but also deaths caused by injuries, including victims of fire and water accidents. The overviews highlight altogether 50 different indicators for each county.

According to Käbin, the health and welfare of people is strongly connected with the general social and economic situation of the county, including employment and possibilities of earning an income, what kind of opportunities for participation there are, whether the living environment is considered to be safe, what kind of support services there are and are accessible.

The National Institute for Health Development compiled the overviews with the aim of giving the decision-makers of local governments and the residents an overview of the health and welfare indicators of the county in a simple form and offer base materials for drawing up health and welfare profiles of the counties. "The overviews are not meant to rank the counties, but to create a comprehensive picture of state of health of the county's residents. As people's health and welfare is impacted by decisions made and actions carried out in all fields of life, then a comprehensive overview as a tool for planning is essential for everyone," Käbin said. "Both on the state level as well as so that local government could form a more supportive living environment in cooperation with communities."

The health indicators of counties have been compared with the Estonian average. The data originates from the databases of the National Institute for Health Development, Statistics Estonia, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Rescue Board, the Health Board and other sources. In order to compile the data in a compact and simple way, a graph model developed by the institute's colleagues from the United Kingdom has been used.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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