When Health fails: A Report from Russia

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the health status in Russia has dramatically declined. Oil rich and the recent growth of GPD couldn’t exert positive influence.

This essay provides some data regarding the health of Russian people tracking the recent changes.

Health care in Russia within the recent two decades

World Health Organization recommends spending at least 5% of total government spending to healthcare. According to data of Allianz Worldwide Care, in the 1960s the spending on healthcare in the Soviet Union was approximately 7% of GDP, and after the break-up in 1991 it was reduced to approximately 3% (AWC, 2010).

The consequences of the financing reduction include the fall of life expectancy with the wide gender gap, the growth of infant mortality, the fall in drugs availability and the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. The situation was worsened due to decentralization of health care system in post-Soviet Russia and the fall of special health services for governmental employees.

Average life expectancy in Russia within the last decade has fallen from 70 years to 65; meanwhile the gender gap reaches 13 years (60.4 men, 74.1 women). It is the widest gender gap in life expectance in the world. In the global rate of life expectancy by UN for 2005-2010 Russia takes the 137th place from 195.

The rate of infant mortality is also worse than in t most industrialized countries. In 2006 it was recorded as 15.1 per 1,000 of the population. However, it is worth mentioning that general dynamics of infant mortality is mostly positive: according the data of World Bank, its rate has significantly shortened within the latest 50 years in Russia.

The infant mortality rate in 1970 was 29.2; within the five years from 1990 to 1995 it has stagnated on the level 22.9, and from 1995 it decreases constantly.

Nowadays Russia takes the 13th place in the world by the number of people with HIV/AIDS. (CIA Factbook, 2010) “After reaching its highest level in 2001, the annual number of newly diagnosed cases has remained relatively steady.

At the end of 2005, there were approximately 350,000 registered cases of HIV/AIDS in Russia.” (AWC, 2010) Sure, the initial reason in fast AIDS spread isn’t in the health care system decline, but these processes are linked.

CIA also evaluates the risk level of major infectious diseases in Russia as intermediate. Nevertheless, the rate of TB, ontological diseases and cardiovascular diseases is higher in Russia than in most industrialized countries.

“Compounded by alcoholism, heart disease claims proportionately more lives than in most of the rest of the world. Death rates from homicide, suicide, auto accidents and cancer are also especially high. (Danilova, 2007)”

It is worth mentioning that the fall of “Iron screen” and the democratization of Russia led to brain drain, particularly in the sector of health care. Simultaneous decline in the educational system together with brain drain caused the skilled personnel shortage.

The proposition of medications increased after the collapse of the USSR. However due to the general life conditions worsening the availability of these medicines shortened.


The collapse of the USSR had the negative impact on the health care system in Russia, as it proved by the basic development characteristics of the country. The oil rich and the latest reforms could be the remedy in this situation, but for now there is no clear evidence of the situation improvement.


Allianz Worldwide Care. International Health Insurance. Healthcare in Russia. Retrieved from http://www.allianzworldwidecare.com/healthcare-in-russia

Danilova, M. Despite oil wealth, Russia faces huge health care problems. New York Times. June 28, 2007. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/28/business/worldbusiness/28iht-russhealth.4.6394606.html

The World Bank. Mortality rate. Retrieved from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.IMRT.IN?cid=GPD_55

CIA. The World Factbook. Russia. The latest update February 2010. Retrieved from