Maltese living healthiest lives in Europe, report suggests

Obesity ranked as Malta's main public health problem, while diabetes and HIV are also relatively prevalent 

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
28 February 2017, 4:06pm
We're obese... but we're healthy: life expectancy is higher than EU average
We're obese... but we're healthy: life expectancy is higher than EU average
Maltese people live on average 90% of their lifespan in good health, a higher percentage than any other European country, a newly published report has indicated.

The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies report also indicates that Malta has the lowest preventable mortality rate in Europe, and that life expectancy on the island (80 years for males, 84 years for females) is slightly higher than the EU average.

Health minister Chris Fearne hailed the report as one that revealed significant progress within the national health services since 2014.

“We often cite statistics on operations, but the best health indicator for me is how we can keep our population free from disease,” he told a conference at the Life Sciences Park. “Malta has the highest healthy living rate and the lowest preventable mortality rate in Europe, which shows that we must do something right.”

The report also shows that national health budget increased by 11.4% this year, following a 12.5% increase in 2016. Total health expenditure as a percentage of GDP stands at 9.75%, slightly higher than the EU average of 9.45%.

Obesity was ranked as the principal public health problem, with 25% of the adults and 27% of children being obese – the highest rate in the EU. Diabetes and HIV also have a relatively high prevalence compared to other European countries. 

The report also described binge drinking as an important health and social issue, but notes that smoking has decreased “significantly” over the past decade.

Malta’s ageing population is flagged as a growing problem, with the ratio of elderly people estimated to reach 32.7% of the population by 2020 and 40.5% by 2030.

The most recent data in 2012 indicates that Malta has an acute hospital bed occupancy rate of 83.2%, which is higher than the EU average.

Although the number of physicians reached the EU average in 2013, the number of specialist physicians, dentists, nurses and paediatricians per capita remain below it.

“Overall, the Maltese health system has registered remarkable progress and this is evidenced by the improvements in preventable and amenable mortality, as well as the generally low levels of unmet need,” the report reads. “The main outstanding challenges for the coming period include: adapting the health system to an increasingly diverse population; increasing health system capacity to cope with a growing population; implementing a redistribution of resources and activity from hospital to primary care; ensuring access to innovative expensive medicines whilst concurrently tackling the need to continue identifying efficiency improvements; and addressing the issue of medium-term financial sustainability associated with steep demographical ageing.”