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Soviets to Revamp Health Care Setup, Stress Fitness

November 28, 1987|CHARLES MITCHELL | United Press International

MOSCOW — The Soviet Union announced Friday 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 method 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.

The plan concluded that Soviets are not as healthy as they should be, with less 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-drinking campaign. The country also faces a growing drug problem, the report said.

"The dynamics of the demographic process have become worse in the country. The mortality of children and working men is high. For a long time the life expectancy has not increased. The level of cardiovascular and oncological (tumor) diseases does not decrease," the plan said.

According to figures published in Pravda in September, life expectancy for Soviet males is 65 years and for women 67 years, as compared to 71.8 for U.S. males and 78 for females.

While the trend in the United States is toward longer life, the reverse is true in the Soviet Union, Pravda said.

Soviet doctors have said that because of poor diet and heavy drinking, the fatal heart attack rate of Soviet men is double that in Western European capitalist countries.

Drug Use Growing

"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."

Health Minister Yevgeny I. Chazov said one of the top priorities of the restructured health system will be to conduct a national fitness program.

"The U.S.S.R. has 1.2 million doctors. If each of them could make at least one man a devotee of physical training many problems would have been solved," Chazov said.

"By the year 1989 we must see the introduction of a physical training program with compulsory physical training exercises taking six-eight hours a week instead of 2-4 hours now."

He said the first steps in "promoting the awareness of physical training" among the population have already been taken and a nationwide anti-smoking campaign is to be launched early in 1988.

Because of the generally unfit state of the population, the state pays out more than $11.2 billion per year in sick leave benefits.

Need to Double Health Budget

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 with "medical passports"--a booklet that gives the date and details of each annual checkup along with any treatment prescribed.

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