Public Health in Belarus

According to the statistical digest “Population Health in Belarus”, the population in early 2011 amounted to 9,481.2 thousand people, 75.1% of which resided in cities, and 24.9% – in the countryside. Since 1993, Belarus’ population count has been decreasing at an annual average rate of 0.363%. Between 2001 and 2011, the population loss in absolute terms amounted to 475.5 thousand people. The birth rate stands at 11.5 per 1,000 people, which is comparable to Western Europe. The birth rate was increasing between 2004 and 2009. Experts forecast that it will decrease further when the numerically insignificant part of the population born in the 1990-s reaches reproductive age.

The mortality rate is 13.73 per 1,000 people (15th in world rankings), comparable to that of the neighbouring countries. This index has been relatively stable for the past five years, as well as the leading causes of death (most commonly, circulatory diseases, malignant neoplasms and external causes: suicide, physical injuries, poisoning, etc.). The high mortality rate in the labour pool (about 25% of all deaths and 30% of male citizens’ deaths) is an issue of special concern.

Infant mortality in Belarus is low – 4 per 1,000 births (comparable to that of neighbouring countries who are EU members) and demonstrates the best dynamics of descent among all CIS countries. This success is presented by the healthcare authorities as the result of the reconstruction and re-equipment of maternity clinics, which provide prompt and efficient assistance to mothers and newborns.

The expected lifespan in Belarus is 70.4% years (64.6 for males and 76.5 for females). However, this index has never reached the level of the late Soviet period (71 years in 1990).

The total morbidity rate in Belarus in 2010 was 87,445 cases per 100 thousand people. Over the past 10 years, fewer deaths have been attributed to contagious diseases than in the past, whereas non-contagious have increased almost across the board. For example, the number of cases of circulatory diseases has increased by 35%, respiratory – by 16%, malignant neoplasms – by 38%, and mental disorders – by 34%, physical injuries – by 10%. The prevalence of non-contagious pathologies is typical for the entire European region, and this trend is creating additional challenges for the healthcare system as patient treatment requires a higher level of individualization, higher levels of staff training and higher costs of diagnostics and medical products.

The infections of most concern are HIV (the morbidity rate has doubled since 2000) and tuberculosis. The latter gives rise to concern because of its large number of drug-resistant forms, especially among patients in the penitentiary system. Multiresistant strains of tuberculosis are found in 35-50% of patients of this category, which is 7-10 times higher than the WHO-recommended level. Considering the fact that Belarus has the third highest prison population in the world, this situation is potentially dangerous for the entire population of Belarus and the whole region.

Alcohol consumption is another public health issue that is broadly discussed. Belarus ranks 11th in the world in the amount of consumed alcohol. In 2011, alcohol sales increased by 2.1 times. Considering the fact that the increase in alcohol consumption by 1 liter is accompanied by a 2.6% increase of the mortality rate, the importance of this factor for population health is clear.

As for smoking, Belarus is one of the leading countries in Europe. The amount of smokers is constantly increasing, especially among females (it has tripled in the last 10 years).

At the same time, relatively few people do sport or other physical activities– a national survey from 2009 showed that as many as 25% of all respondents do not do sport (an 11% increase since 2004) and 50% do sport “occasionally”.