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Accolades for Spanish health but “still much to be done” says minister 

Acting Spanish Minister for Health, Social Services and Equality, Alfonso Alonso, highlighted the good health of Spaniards, which was described as “extraordinarily good” by the World Health Organisation, the body that has promoted World Health Day.

The minister made these statements during his visit to the Nuevo Horizonte Association, an association of families of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

One of the things highlighted by the WHO report is the life expectancy in Spain, which has risen from 77 in 1990 to 83 at present, the highest in Europe and almost in the world (only after Japan). These figures are the result of various factors, including the Mediterranean diet and the Spanish lifestyle.

The minister said these figures are also related to the strength of the Spanish National Health System. According to the latest healthcare barometer (2014), 88 per cent of the people who use the primary healthcare centres of the Spanish National Health System give a very positive assessment of the service they receive. As regards the specialist clinics, 83.3 per cent of patients state that the service provided was good or very good.

At the same time, the Spanish minister wished to highlight the need to tackle the major health challenges that Spain shares with countries in the same peer group, such as sedentary lifestyles and bad eating habits leading to excess weight and obesity.

In this regard, the results from the latest European Health Survey in Spain show a slight downward trend in these problems. In 2014, 52.7 per cent of Spaniards were above the weight considered normal. This compares with the 53.7 per cent of adults suffering from excess weight or obesity in 2009. As regards sedentary lifestyles, 44.3 per cent of the adult population in Spain claimed to lead a sedentary life in 2011 while 36.68 per cent claimed the same in 2014.

These trends represent an achievement in terms of preventing health problems and chronic illness, action that is included in the healthcare strategies of the Government of Spain. However, Alfonso Alonso stressed that much more work needs to be done and his ministerial department is working hard from both healthcare and social perspectives.

This year, World Health Day is focused on diabetes, a priority issue for the Government of Spain. Cases of diabetes are on the increase, as 4.1 per cent of the adult population suffered from this disease in 1993 and 6.8 per cent in 2014. Up to 70 per cent of cases of type-2 diabetes can be prevented with healthy lifestyles, representing approximately 90 per cent of all cases of diabetes worldwide.

For this reason, one of the cornerstones of the Diabetes Strategy of the Spanish National Health System – a benchmark within the healthcare system as a whole – is aimed at promoting health and healthy lifestyles. This helps combat not only diabetes but other chronic diseases with similar risk factors, which are tackled together and as a group.