Crisis, Austerity, Health Systems and Health Status in the Southern European Countries
The effects of the Great Recession on health are not yet fully evident, but it is clear that they are considerable. This paper rstly summarizes the main austerity measures on the health sector adopted in the Southern European countries (Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal). A survey on the literature about the controversial relationship between income and health and a short focus on the aftermath of some past economic crises in different countries follow, but both do not provide de nitive answers on the health effects of economic crises. Hence these effects are examined from four standpoints: 1) epidemiological conditions and technological development; 2) capacity to increase cost-effectiveness of expenditure rather than reduce access; 3) increase in overall social risk; 4) increase in «institutional stress». In the four observed countries problems of physical and economic access have emerged. The trend toward universality was reversed in some cases, e.g. Greece (increased number of people without health coverage), and Spain (irregular migrants and unemployed young people). An actual demolition of the public health system seems to be in progress only in Greece, but austerity has not nished. Some evidence on mental health, suicides, malnutrition, increase in heart attacks, Hiv, malaria is alarming. Austerity hinders the adoption of social policies useful to preserve health, and a sort of institutional stress, also related to overall problems of democratic representation, is growing.
Keywords: Crisis; Austerity; Healthcare; Health