Country Listing

Yugoslavia Table of Contents


Development of the Health Care System

Poor nutrition and ignorance of hygiene and child care were normal conditions in Yugoslavia before World War II. As a result, Yugoslavia suffered Europe's highest death rate from tuberculosis; malaria, diphtheria, typhus, syphilis, dysentery, and whooping cough also ravaged the country.

After World War II, the Yugoslav state took direct control of the country's health care system and established a general health insurance program. In the early years of the program, coverage was inconsistent for a substantial portion of the population; private farmers and their families were not covered until 1959. In recent decades, however, improvements in health care and the delivery of health services were dramatic. Overall coverage rose from a quarter of the population in 1952 to over 80 percent in 1984 (see table 10, Appendix). The number of physicians rose to 45,869 in 1987, and the number of hospital beds reached 142,427. Health education and increased access to health care reduced the outbreak of infectious diseases to a fraction of earlier levels. Diphtheria was eradicated completely; the incidence of typhus fell from 3,022 in 1955 to 160 in 1986, of syphilis from 7,248 to 300; of whooping cough from 28,066 to 2,978; and of tuberculosis from 37,945 to 15,891. Maternity-related deaths and birth-related infant deaths also plummeted between the 1950s and the 1980s.

In 1987, farmers and farm workers used health-care facilities about one-fourth as often as industrial workers. Job openings at rural health-care facilities went unfilled despite the fact that few jobs for health-care workers existed in the cities. Between 1965 and 1970, a third of all medical school graduates left the country to find work. Disparities in health care between Yugoslavia's developed and less-developed regions also were dramatic. In 1983 Slovenia had one doctor for every 434 persons, compared with one per 1,141 persons in Kosovo. Likewise, Slovenian hospitals had one bed per 128 persons in the republic; Kosovo, one bed per 334 persons. In Slovenia, 99.7 percent of all births took place with professional medical care; in Kosovo, professional care attended only 60.5 percent of births. Overall, in 1990 Yugoslavia had 45,000 doctors and 280 hospitals with a total capacity of 145,000 beds.

Data as of December 1990