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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


The Soviet system of socialized medicine, introduced during the Stalin era, emphasized "quantitative" expansion. The system was driven by three basic underlying principles: provision by government health institutions of readily available and free, qualified medical care to all citizens; an emphasis on the prevention of illness; and the related goal of guaranteeing a healthy labor force for the nation's economy. Indeed, the individual citizen's health was viewed not only as a personal matter "but as part of the national wealth."

In the mid-1980s, the government operated a huge network of neighborhood and work site clinics to provide readily accessible primary care and large hospitals and polyclinic complexes for diagnosis and treatment of more complicated illnesses and for surgery. Health care facilities included numerous women's consultation centers and pediatric clinics, emergency ambulance services, and sanatoriums and rest homes for extended and shortterm therapy and relaxation. Psychiatric care remained the most outdated and abuse-ridden area of the country's medical system.

The mid-1980s were marked by growing concern on the part of officials and the public over the serious decline in the country's health and the low quality of medical services available to the general populace. In addition to Gorbachev's war against alcoholism, which was seen as a principal contributing factor in increased male mortality rates, reforms in the 1980s called for eliminating overbureaucratization of medical services, improving medical training and salaries, expanding fee-for-service care, and significantly increasing funding to improve the quality of health care nationwide.

Data as of May 1989