MOSCOW — The Soviet Union today announced a major reorganization of its free cradle-to-grave health care system and the introduction of a national "keep fit" campaign to whip its admittedly unhealthy population into shape.
The draft plan to reform the national health system by the year 2000 was published in full on the first three pages of the Communist Party daily newspaper Pravda.
It includes the introduction of a system of annual mandatory medical checkups for citizens as a means of controlling and preventing disease.
The health system has been singled out by the Soviet media and government officials as an example of poor and inefficient management that often fails to provide even basic services for the population.
Life Expectancy Down
The plan concluded that Soviets are not as healthy as they should be, with fewer than one-third of the population engaging in any form of regular exercise.
It said alcohol abuse remains a serious problem despite Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign. The country also faces a growing drug problem, the report said.
According to figures published in Pravda in September, life expectancy for Soviet males has fallen to 65 years and for women to 67 years as contrasted with 71.8 for U.S. males and 78 for females.
"Widely spread are drunkenness and alcoholism. The number of people using drugs is growing," the report said. "More than two-thirds of the population do not go in systematically for sports activities, up to 30% are overweight and some 70 million smoke."
Sick Leave Benefits
Because of the generally unfit state of the population, the state pays out more than $11.2 billion per year in sick leave benefits.
The entire state health budget amounts to $25.6 billion, and Soviet officials have said it must double if any real effects from the reorganization are to be felt. Half of the annual budget is spent on doctors' salaries alone.
Emphasis will be placed on preventive measures through the introduction of mandatory checkups.
After 1995, the entire population of 283 million will undergo the compulsory checkups and be issued "medical passports"--booklets that give the date and details of each annual checkup along with any treatment prescribed.