Country Listing

Finland Table of Contents


Development of the Health System

Since becoming an independent state in 1917, Finland has managed to deal with the "traditional" health problems. The most important cause of death in the nineteenth century, pulmonary tuberculosis, was brought under control by means of a network of tuberculosis hospitals built between the world wars. Smallpox and pneumonia have also ceased to be serious problems. With the aid of the vaccination law passed in 1952, the fight against ckmmunicable diseases was largely won. In 1980, for example, there were no deaths from common diseases of this type. By the mid-1980s, no cases of diphtheria had been registered in Finland for several decades, and, with the exception of a mini-epidemic of seven cases in 1983-84, poliomyelitis also had disappeared. An emphasis on hospital construction in the 1950s and 1960s brought the ratio of hospital beds per capita up to international norms, and new medical training centers more than doubled the number of physicians between 1970 and the mid-1980s (see table 11, Appendix A). The passage of the Sickness Insurance Act in 1963 and frequent expansion of its coverage meant that good medical care was available to everyone. Later legislative measures, such as the Primary Health Care Act of 1972, or the Mental Health Act of 1978, aimed at moving health care from large centers, increasing the amount of preventive treatment at smaller local facilities, and favoring out-patient care when possible. Finnish health authorities believed, even in the late 1980s, that care of this kind could be more flexible, humane, and effective and could also check cost increases. Despite this policy innovation, however, social expenditures on health had increased ten-fold in real terms since the early 1950s.

Data as of December 1988