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Health in Slovakia : highlights

Life expectancy in Slovakia is among the lowest in Europe, and temporarily fell by almost one year in 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19. Behavioural and environmental risk factors contribute to nearly half of all deaths.

The Slovak population enjoys a broad benefits package, which includes recently introduced telemedicine. However, low levels of health spending and health workforce shortages remain persistent issues that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

Slovakia’s health status

Life expectancy in Slovakia increased by more than two years between 2010 and 2019, only to fall by almost one year in 2020 due to Covid-19 deaths. It remains nearly four years below the EU average. Disparities in life expectancy by socioeconomic status remain among the largest in the EU. Slovakia also has one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the EU.

Risk factors

While adult tobacco consumption declined in most countries over the past decade, in Slovakia it remained stable and is currently above the EU average. Alcohol consumption is comparable to the EU average. Obesity rates among adults and adolescents are on the rise and higher than the EU average, due in part to poor nutritional habits and limited levels of physical activity.

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Slovakia’s health system

Slovakia spends less than half the EU average on health, at €1,513 compared to €3,521 per person in 2019, adjusted for differences in purchasing power. Around 80% of health spending is publicly financed, and out-of-pocket payments accounted for almost 20% of health expenditure in 2019 compared to 15.4% in the EU.

Effectiveness

Slovakia has among the highest mortality rates from preventable and treatable causes in the EU. Despite improvements, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death. Substantial room for improvement remains for effective public health policies to reduce premature deaths.

Accessibility

Access to healthcare is generally good in Slovakia, with only 2.7% of the population reporting unmet medical care needs before the pandemic. However, during the first 12 months of the pandemic, 23% of people reported forgone medical care. The introduction of telemedicine helped to maintain access to care during the second wave of the pandemic.

Resilience

Slovakia had low Covid-19 case numbers during the first wave of the pandemic, due in part to quick implementation of containment measures. However, numbers rose significantly during the second wave; three quarters of all Covid-19 deaths occurred in the first half of 2021. As of August 2021, 40% of the population had received two vaccine doses (or equivalent) – a proportion lower than the EU average.

OECD/European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (2021), Slovakia: Country Health Profile 2021, State of Health in the EU, OECD Publishing, Paris/European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, Brussels.

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