Re:Baltica Completes Series on Latvian Health Care System

The Baltic Center for Investigative Journalism Re:Baltica, an OCCRP partner, has published the last installment in its series about the health care system in Latvia.

Previous stories have looked at the system's pending financial reforms, which would leave 100,000 Latvians without access to affordable health care. The reform would tie access to free medical care to tax compliance, meaning that starting July 2015 state-funded health care will be given only to those whose employer declares their income to tax authorities for 11 months in a calendar year, or who themselves declare an income which is equal to at least 12 monthly minimum salaries.

On Friday, the center published two more installments in the series.

The first, entitled 'Cardiologist to the Court', explores a paradox of the health system in Latvia: due to strong lobbying by a talented doctor with political friends, Latvia spends more money than any other Baltic state on interventional cardiology, including the surgical use of stents to open clogged arteries and prevent heart attacks.

Although Latvia uses this procedure more often than the other Baltic states, it has three times the European Union average of people dying prematurely from heart disease, much higher than in Estonia and only slightly
lower than Lithuania.

In the second article, Re:Baltica explores the rising rates of child obesity in Latvia. Studies have shown that poor diet and a lack of physical activity among Latvian children are making them fatter, and that more than half will be overweight by the time they are adults. They will get ill more often and not live as long. 

The risk of obesity and heart disease in future could be diminished by controlling the menus in school cafeterias. Re:Baltica's research shows that half the schools in Latvia serve unhealthy snacks and candies.