Health and Welfare

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

In the late 1980s, Antigua and Barbuda had a fairly healthy population, primarily as a result of the relatively high level of protein in the diet. Life expectancy at birth was seventy-two years. Primary causes of sickness and death, especially among children, were gastroenteritis and dysentery, both of which are caused by poor sanitary conditions and therefore are avoidable. Many parts of the islands, especially rural areas, did not have sufficient amounts of safe drinking water or adequate wastedisposal facilities. Other causes of death were heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, and influenza or pneumonia. Pertussis, yaws, and leprosy also presented health problems. Moreover, the kind of mosquito that spreads dengue and yellow fever inhabited Antigua and Barbuda. There were some cases of child malnutrition and failure to immunize children against common diseases. Diabetes and high blood pressure were common in adults. As of 1987, Antigua and Barbuda had two reported cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The main health facility, the Holberton Hospital, had a staff of full-time doctors and offered specialist services in surgery, opthamology, radiology, and psychiatry. A smaller hospital, with 230 beds, was located on Barbuda. Antigua also had a 160-bed mental hospital and a 40-bed leprosy hospital. In 1982 there were four health centers, supervised by district health nurses, and twentyfive multipurpose satellite health clinics. There were 30 doctors and 130 nurses and midwives; most nurses had completed a three-year training program at the Holberton Hospital. The government played an active role in providing for the social welfare of the nation's citizens. Seen as an "employer of last resort," the government occasionally purchased failing enterprises in an effort to prevent increased unemployment. The government also provided social security, medical benefits, and subsidized health care. Retired civil servants received pensions, and compensation was paid to dismissed public employees.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress