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13 Sep, 2010 23:45

People living longer in Russia – Vladimir Putin

Life expectancy is growing in Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a World Health Organization gathering in Moscow.

”The average life expectancy in Russia has gone up by three years over the past five years and is now 69,” he said, addressing the 60th session of the World Health Organization's European Regional Committee on Monday.

“This may be a moderate figure for Europe but to rise by three years in the last five is a considerable number. The tendency is obviously positive,” premier added.

The Russian prime minister noted that Russian life expectancy is lower than European due to a number of factors: high rates of alcohol abuse and smoking, road accidents and heart disease. He said, however, that Russian authorities are now more effective in tackling these problems.

Putin noted that since 2001 Russia’s state healthcare expenses have risen fourfold and added that national project “Health”, launched in 2005 to unite priority healthcare programs, will receive over US$ 14 billion in the coming three years.

He said that the country is busy re-equipping cancer hospitals and building clinics with cutting edge technology, as well as new prenatal centers.

Every region now has modern centers that address heart disease and road trauma, Putin observed.

In 2011, on its own initiative, Russia will host the first international conference on the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, the prime minister announced.

There is no perfect healthcare system in the world, believes Joseph Kutzin, head of the Office for Health System Strengthening in Barcelona for the World Health Organization.

“We [WHO] believe that healthcare systems should be trying to achieve certain specific objectives. What is, obviously, to improve the health of the population but also – and related to that – is also to improve the distribution of healthcare and the equity of health status. How healthy somebody is should not depend on how rich or poor they are.”

Dr Guénaël R. Rodier, a director of the International Health Regulations Co-ordination Program at the World Health Organization (WHO), said there is a relatively new global system, created by the WHO, that involves many countries.

“In the late 1990s there was a major outbreak of ebola in Africa, pneumonic plague in India in 1994, and mad cow disease elsewhere,” he recalled. It was these events that led to the idea of building such a system.

“Members of WHO, in 2005, agreed to establish a global set of procedures, rules – they all now have to follow the rules when they’re exchanging information or specimens between countries,” Rodier says.

“That’s very important, because to investigate an event we need information from the Ministries of Health and specimens.”

He confirmed that Russia is involved in this global system.

Rodier recalled that recently there was a meeting with Russian Health Ministry officials in Moscow, including Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s consumer protection agency, to look at how “we could work together in the future.”

He added that in the WHO office in Copenhagen there are Russian scientists who “contribute directly to the investigation of events.”

Dr Rebecca Martin, Targeted Diseases and Immunization Leader, Communicable Diseases Unit (CDS), admitted that recent cooperation with the Regional Reference Lab for the Central Asian republics in Russia helped to detect a polio virus in Tajikistan.

“The lab here in Moscow at the Polio Institute tested all of the specimens that have come in,” she said.

“They’ve played a major, and a very key role, in allowing us to detect the virus,” Martin said, adding, “It’s a great partnership that we’ve had with them for that.”

Martin also stressed that “the main message is that you can not prevent the importation of the wild polio virus, but what you can do is prevent the spread.” She added that immunization helps in such cases.