Georgia achieves significant health improvements but still faces considerable challenges

WHO/Damir Begović

From left to right: Marijan Ivanusa, WHO Representative, Georgia; Nino Berdzuli, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs; Claudia Stein, Director of the Division of Information, Evidence Research and Innovation at WHO Europe; Amiran Gamkrelidze, Director, National CDC.

The fourth in a series of publications providing in-depth analysis of health status in Member States was launched on 26 October 2017. The report, focusing on Georgia, reveals a health situation that has improved significantly in the last decade but still presents considerable challenges.

At the launch, Dr Amiran Gamkrelidze of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and Dr Claudia Stein, Director of the Division of Information, Evidence Research and Innovation at WHO Europe, commented on the progress the country has made in improving the health status of its population.

The report, entitled “Georgia Profile of Health and Well-being”, was written in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and National Center for Disease Prevention and Control. It uses Health 2020 indicators to provide insights into performance against Health 2020 targets and implementation. It is accompanied by a succinct “Highlights on health” summary, which is designed for policy-makers, pinpointing key policy issues and trends, and providing analysis of available information and evidence related to the health situation of the country.

Improving trends

Life expectancy in Georgia has now reached 73.1 years, which is 1.9 years above the average for the Commonwealth of Independent States. Georgia has made progress on a number of the 19 core Health 2020 indicators. It has succeeded in improving life expectancy at birth, in reducing premature mortality from the 4 main noncommunicable diseases among people aged 30–69 years, and in maintaining high levels of child immunization against measles and rubella. While Georgia has also achieved considerable reductions in infant mortality, its rate remains higher than that of the WHO European Region as a whole.

Facing considerable challenges

Despite the progress made on a number of indicators, some challenges remain in the areas of communicable and noncommunicable disease, well-being and the social determinants of health, particularly the Gini coefficient and unemployment.

The government has implemented a series of health reforms that include:

  • establishing a state-based health insurance programme to provide equitable and universal access to health care and to protect citizens from catastrophic health expenditure;
  • introducing and improving data collection systems;
  • committing to the elimination of hepatitis C;
  • adopting a health promotion strategy that includes tobacco control measures.

Despite these actions, Georgia faces significant challenges related to the sustainability of its programmes and the health of its population. Maternal and infant mortality, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and the high rate of tobacco smoking among males all pose threats to health and well-being in the country. Premature mortality has been reduced in the past 20 years, but is still higher than the average for the Region.

Dr Stein, commended the publication: “This report shows that the hard work of the Ministry of Health, the public health authorities and health workers in Georgia is paying off and there have been significant improvements. Of course, there is still much work to be done, but seeking to better understand the present, through a report like this, is a recipe for success in the future”.

More country profiles planned for publication

Previous reports were published on Greece, the Republic of Moldova and Slovenia. Over the coming years, and covering as many countries as possible, WHO Europe will produce more of these detailed country profiles, which describe the national health situation using the latest available data. This data is analysed in conjunction with that of the countries in order to create meaningful comparisons.

The reports are available via the European Health Information Gateway, and its accompanying European Health Statistics app, where data sets can be explored in more detail and in comparison to other countries.