Mortality rates and the health of Greek Cypriots rose steadily in the postwar era. The eradication of malaria was an important cause for this improvement, as were material prosperity and the diffusion of up-to-date health information. Since independence in 1960, the Ministry of Health has been responsible for improving public health and providing public medical services, as well as overseeing the extensive private health care sector.
Government medical services were available to all at the beginning of the 1990s. The poor were entitled to free services; middle-income families paid for care at reduced rates. These two groups accounted for well over half the population; upper-income persons paid for the full costs of medical services. In addition, there were a number of health plans subsidized by employers and trade unions. Civil servants and members of police and military units received free medical care. Cypriots needing care not available in the republic were sent abroad at government expense.
At the beginning of the 1990s, there were six general hospitals, all in the main towns. In addition, there were twentyone rural health centers and a psychiatric hospital in Nicosia. In 1987 there were 1,870 hospital beds, compared with 1,592 in 1960. The private health sector was extensive, and more than threequarters of all doctors and dentists had their own practices or practiced part time in private clinics. Taking both public and private care into account, in 1989 there was 1 hospital bed per 166 inhabitants, 1 doctor per 482 inhabitants, and 1 dentist for every 1,356 inhabitants.
The improvement in the island's health care during the postwar period was reflected by increased life expectancy. In the 1983-87 period, Cypriot women could expect to live 77.8 years, and men 73.9 years, compared with 69 and 64 years, respectively, for the period 1948-50. The improvement in the infant mortality rate was even more striking, with 11 deaths per 1,000 births in the mid-1980s, compared with 63 per 1,000 at mid-century.
The main reasons for improved health conditions on the island were the Cypriots' constant pursuit of better living standards, their consuming concern with their family's welfare, the close urban-rural ties, and the rapid diffusion of and receptiveness to innovative ideas in health care.
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