Health and Welfare
In the mid-1980s, Barbadian health indicators showed that the
overall health status of the country had improved substantially. In
addition, by 1984 the government had taken major steps toward
instituting a comprehensive health care service. As a result,
Barbados compared favorably with its Eastern Caribbean neighbors in
quality and delivery of health services.
Barbados achieved considerable success in reducing its crude
birth rate in the 1980s (see Population, this section). Mortality
rates, which had been steadily improving since 1974, deteriorated
slightly in 1983. The death rate for the population rose in 1983 to
7.9 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants; much of the increase was
attributed to a higher infant mortality rate, which rose 15 percent
to 24.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. This increase was caused
largely by problems arising shortly after birth, particularly
pneumonia and respiratory ailments. Life expectancy at birth in
Barbados in 1983 was seventy years. Morbidity indicators in the
1980s approximated those found elsewhere in the Caribbean. Only 2.3
percent of all deaths in 1982 were attributed to infectious and
parasitic diseases. Statistics from that year indicated that twothirds of all children one year of age and younger were inoculated
against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus and 53 percent against
measles. As of mid-1987, Barbados reported fifteen cases of
acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Improved water and sewage disposal was credited with the
decline of morbidity rates from 1974 to 1985. The entire population
had access to potable water by 1984. In addition, the completion in
1982 of the sewage system in the capital city of Bridgetown
dramatically improved the urban sanitation situation. The rest of
the island depended on septic tanks for waste disposal; however,
plans were underway in 1985 to extend modern sewage facilities
throughout the southern and western coastal areas.
Barbados' consistently improving health conditions were the
direct result of government efforts to enact a health care program.
Between 1978 and 1983, Ministry of Health expenditures, including
social security, represented an average of 14.5 percent of total
government outlays. The government planned delivery of free health
care to all Barbadians through two basic programs, the General
Practitioner Service and the Barbados Drug Service. The former was
designed to bring medical service to virtually all areas of the
island, but it had not been fully implemented. The Barbados Drug
Service began operations in 1980 and improved the delivery of
prescription and over-the-counter drugs, providing increased
efficiency and reduced costs.
In 1985 Barbados health care facilities included one general
hospital (Queen Elizabeth's Hospital), one psychiatric facility
(the Psychiatric Hospital), six district hospitals, seven
polyclinics, and four health centers. Queen Elizabeth's Hospital
and the Psychiatric Hospital each contained approximately 630 beds.
District hospitals offered an additional 900 beds, and private
hospitals were equipped with approximately 60 beds. The polyclinics
delivered basic maternal and child care, family planning, and
general health education services in rural areas. The health
centers offered medical care in remote locations, but they were
considered poorly equipped. There were 8.8 physicians and 30 nurses
per 10,000 inhabitants in 1982. The Barbados Medical School, a part
of the UWI system, was located at Queen Elizabeth's Hospital.
Despite substantial improvements in Barbadian health care, some
problems persisted as of the late 1980s. Continued efforts were
necessary to improve health care in rural areas. New measures were
also needed to deal with alcohol abuse and diseases carried by
rodents and wild dogs. Most noticeable noncommunicable health
problems were heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The government
sought to respond to these health problems with expanded education
programs, early diagnosis, and drugs.
Data as of November 1987