According to new statistics released by EU’s statistical agency, Eurostat, conducted on ‘avoidable mortality’ in the European Union Member states, Hungary has the worst disease prevention situation among EU countries. In reaction to the figures, the Ministry of Human Resources’ state secretary, Bence Rétvari, said that though there is still much to be done, it is clear that the rate of preventable deaths is down in Hungary.
The statistical office Eurostat looked at two types of deaths: treatable mortalities that could have been avoided with health-care systems offering timely and effective treatments, and preventable deaths which could have been avoided through optimal quality health care and non-medical health procedures. These include a healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition, regular, organized screening, early detection of diseases, and the prevention of complications.
According to the Eurostat study, in 2016, 1.5 million people aged less than 75 years died in the European Union (EU), out of which two-thirds (1.0 million) could be considered as premature according to the Eurostat-OECD list of avoidable mortality. These deaths could have been avoided through effective public health and primary prevention interventions (preventable deaths), or through timely and effective health care interventions (treatable deaths).
Treatable diseases: Hungary fifth from bottom
Romania tops the negative list, followed by Latvia, Bulgaria, and Lithuania with the fifth-worst rate in Hungary. Compared to the EU average, the mortality rate in Hungary is almost twice as bad for treatable diseases. This indicator also provides evidence of the effectiveness of a country’s healthcare system: are warning signs recognized in a timely manner, do patients get to a doctor in a timely manner, and are they given the appropriate therapy to avoid premature death? While it is clear that the situation is the worst in the former socialist countries, and an East-West distribution can be detected in the data, there are still countries that are effectively overcoming their disadvantages. Slovak, Croatian, Estonian, Polish, Czech, and Slovenian healthcare perform better than the Hungarian system.
The study also showed that lung cancer was the main cause of preventable deaths in 20 of the 27 Member States. In Hungary, lung cancer accounts for 9% of all deaths for men and 7% for women. In 2016, there were 32,987 deaths due to tumors in Hungary. According to a 2018 study ‘Demographic Portrait,’ if the level of the deaths from cancer would be at the same level as in Austria, 22,181 deaths would have occurred, which means that a total of 10,806 could have been prevented.
According to the study, in the EU the most common causes of death from treatable diseases among people under 75 years of age were: ischaemic heart diseases, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, cerebrovascular diseases, and pneumonia. In 2016, these five causes accounted for 65% of all deaths from treatable conditions in the EU.
Main preventable diseases: more than twice as many people die in Hungary than EU average
In 2017, among these five leading causes of preventable deaths, lung cancer had the highest standardized death rate for people aged less than 75 years in 20 of the 27 EU Member States. According to Eurostat, Hungary has the worst disease prevention situation among EU countries. The highest rate of preventable deaths for the five most common diseases was also recorded in Hungary, which means that the country has more than twice as many people dying from these preventable diseases as the EU average.
Last year, the European Commission also published reports that depict the profile of healthcare systems in 30 countries in the European Union. The Hungarian country profile shows that despite improvements since 2000, health outcomes in Hungary are still behind most other EU countries, reflecting both unhealthy lifestyles and the limited effectiveness of healthcare provision.
The EC country profile also showed that life expectancy at birth in Hungary remains among the lowest in the EU, at almost five years below the EU average and the lowest among the V4 countries. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Hungary – much higher than in most EU countries – most notably strokes, but circulatory system diseases are also leading causes. According to the report, nearly 30,000 deaths could have been avoided with more effective public health services.
Democratic Coalition: “More People Die from Preventable Diseases in Hungary than Elsewhere in EU”
Also citing the same Eurostat study, the opposition Democratic Coalition last week said that proportionally more people die from preventable diseases in Hungary than anywhere else in the European Union. The party insisted the situation was largely due to a healthcare system that had “broken down over the past ten years,” as doctors had “fled abroad” and those who stayed receiving “humiliating salaries.”
State secretary: Rate of preventable deaths down in Hungary
However, state secretary at the Ministry of Human Resources, Bence Rétvari, said on Sunday that though there is still much to be done, it is clear that the rate of preventable deaths is down in Hungary. He said that since 2011, the proportion of treatable deaths that indicate the effectiveness of the healthcare system has gone down from 198 to 179, an improvement of 10%, adding that the proportion of preventable deaths which shows the effectiveness of personal prevention and screening has also dropped from 358 to 327, which is a 9% improvement. Rétvári added that over the past ten years the government has increased the healthcare budget by 76% and has upgraded 91 hospitals and 51 outpatient clinics.