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Health in Kuwait

In the 1950s Kuwait was the first Gulf State to develop a comprehensive cradle-to-grave, free health-care system for all its inhabitants. As a result, many infectious and communicable diseases, such as cholera, diphtheria, polio, and tetanus, have been eradicated. Other traditional scourges of Kuwait, such as malaria and tuberculosis, have declined significantly. Life expectancy at birth for Kuwaiti citizens has risen spectacularly: in 2012 it was 79 years for females and 78 years for males, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is just below the average for high-income countries worldwide (78.7 years for males and females taken together). Within the Gulf Cooperation Council, only citizens of the UAE have a higher average life expectancy (81/76.8). Total health expenditure per capita in 2009 was USD 1498 (3 percent of GDP).

A 2006 report by WHO warned Kuwait that, although it had made great progress during the second half of the 20th century, its health services have to continue to develop, in order to meet the demands of the 21st century. Although citizen expectations of health care have been rising, the quality of, and service provided by, government health facilities have not risen accordingly. It is for this reason that private clinics, known to prescribe costly and often unnecessary medicines and treatments for relatively minor ailments, are gaining popularity. Non-communicable diseases such as cancers and coronary heart disease are increasing at an alarming rate, as are health risk-factors such as obesity, diabetes, dyslipidaemia, and physical inactivity. Accidents and injuries, mainly from road accidents and accidents at work, also show sharp increases. Many expatriates suffer from mental disorders. All these ‘new’ diseases necessitate a new approach to health care, with more attention to prevention, public-health education, and a good system of medical registration, information, and analysis.

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