Health and Welfare
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.
Data as of November 1987