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Barbados has a government-provided health service modelled on the National Health Service in the UK. Citizens of Barbados are able to access free, quality health care in health clinics and government-run hospitals across the country. Prescriptions, and dental and ophthalmology services are also provided free of charge.
Roughly a third of health care in Barbados (34%) was paid for by patients or funded by other non-governmental entities – such as private insurers, charities or employers – in 2012. The remaining 66% was covered by the government.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) accounted for an estimated 84% of all mortality in Barbados in 2012. The most prevalent NCD in Barbados is cancer, which accounted for 29% of total deaths across all age groups in 2012. Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and non-communicable variants of respiratory diseases contributed 28%, 9% and 2% to total mortality, respectively (2012). Communicable diseases along with maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions accounted for an estimated 11% of all mortality in Barbados in 2012. The prevalence of HIV, as a percentage of the population aged 15–49 years, has grown by almost 1% since 1990 and currently stands at 0.9% (2012).
In 2013 government expenditure on health was 4% of GDP. In the most recent survey, conducted in 2014, there were 181 doctors, and 486 nurses and midwives per 100,000 people. Additionally, in the period 2007–12, 100% of births were attended by qualified health staff and, in 2013, 90% of one-year-olds were immunised with a dose of measles. In 2014 the UN estimated that 100% of people were using an improved drinking water source and had access to adequate sanitation facilities. The most recent survey, conducted in the period 2000–11, reports that Barbados has 93 pharmaceutical personnel per 100,000 people.
Barbados was not an original signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but acceded to it in 1976 and has written the covenant into law. It includes ‘the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’. The covenant commits signees to providing healthy and hygienic environmental conditions, controlling epidemic diseases, improving child health and facilitating access to health services without discrimination.