Health System in the DPRK
Magaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), visited the DPRK in April and spoke to the reporters in high appreciation of its public health system which would be envy of most of the developing countries. The WHO’s assistant director general Eric Laroche, too, on his visit to the country two months earlier had said that the Korean people were leading a happy life under the advantageous health system.
The health system in the DPRK itself testifies to accuracy of the comments made by high-ranking officials of the WHO.
Universal free medical service with a 60-year-long history
The universal free medical service has been in effect since January 1953 in the DPRK.
It is in the limelight of the world community not only for its long history but for the precedence it gives to protection and improvement of life and health of the people above the economic calculation or interests. That is what marks it off from those based on social wealth and material guarantees found in other countries. Noteworthy is the fact that the DPRK enforced its free medical care system when it was in the middle of the war with the US (1950-1953), that is, in the grimmest days for the country.
All the citizens of the country, irrespective of occupation, sex, age, residency, quantity and quality of the work done, are equally provided with a free medical service at state expense.
Those who have lost their working ability, chronic invalids and aged patients are given more benefits, while the health of pregnant women and children are under special care of the state.
Its free medical service is perfect and thorough in content. All services are free, including treatment for both outpatients and inpatients, sick calls, diagnosis, laboratory tests, function diagnosis, operations, meals at hospitals, etc. Assistance in delivery, medical checkups, preventive vaccinations, prosthetic and dental services are also free of charge. In addition, travel expenses to and from the places of recuperation are borne by the state or social cooperative organizations.
Medical services and medicines provided by medical establishments to the inpatients as well as those prescribed for the outpatients are completely free.
The enforcement of this free medical care system in the DPRK is firmly guaranteed by the Socialist Constitution, the basic law, and the Public Health Law.
Regular medical service system
The DPRK has a dense network of medical establishments like general hospital, specialized hospital, hospital or clinic, from the highest down to the lowest unit of administration like ri and dong. According to data, there are as many as 9 000 public health agencies for the population of 24 million. The country has witnessed the increase of hygienic and anti-epidemic organs by 38 times, of hospitals by 53.8 times, and of doctors and pharmacists by 322 times during the period from 1946 to 2006.
Already in the 1970s it ranked in the advanced countries in terms of the number of doctors, medical facilities and beds for every 1 000 people.
Recently it has set up a nationwide on-line medical service system, making it possible to conduct medical treatment and health care of the people more satisfactorily and promptly.
A lot of recuperation centers making wide use of such natural treatment factors as spas, mineral waters and mud have been built across the country.
Hundreds of thousands of people have received medical services in such places for the past decade as of 2008.
Pharmaceutical and medical appliances factories managed by the central and local authorities, colleges at all levels for training medical workers, retraining courses for doctors, medical science research institutes provide the universal, free medical care system of the country with sound material and technical support.
Unique section-doctor system
Worthy of special note in the health care system in the DPRK is its section-doctor system for the households.
Its health care system has doctors assigned to certain production units and residential quarters, after taking into account all aspects required for the service such as the number of residents and their health condition, hygienic and sanitary state, doctors’ abilities and amount of their work.
Doctors always go among the residents under charge to familiarize themselves with the details of their life, including preferences for food and sanitary state both at home and work, and offer prophylactic treatment accordingly.
From the first day of birth every resident has his or her own health register, which will tag along whenever the resident changes home.
The household doctor is, as a matter of fact, in charge of the health register. It proves that everybody has his or her own family doctor in his or her lifetime.
Thoroughgoing prophylactic medical policy
The DPRK, which regards that socialist medicine is in essence prophylactic medicine, pays special attention to hygienic and anti-epidemic work, medical checkups and preventive vaccinations in order to prevent the people from falling ill.
Medical workers vigorously conduct hygienic publicity campaigns among the people to broaden their knowledge and information on hygiene, while ensuring that cities and villages are provided adequately with hygienic conditions.
They are also taking possible measures for preventive treatment by eradicating the causes of various epidemics and diseases.
All Koreans are obliged to have a routine medical check-up under the unified plan of the state and also get all sorts of vaccinations. Children in particular, should be checked up and vaccinated on scores of occasions from birth to adulthood. In the course of this various illnesses are detected early enough to be treated in time.
The law on environmental protection ensures that pollution is completely prevented and all living and working conditions are turned in favor of the people's health.
It was reported that a newly built cement factory had laid out 40% of its whole construction expenses for its dust cleaning equipment.
The fact that the DPRK had not been affected in the slightest by the AIDS, SARS and bird’s flu that threatened the lives of the world community in recent years, is a clear evidence of the great might of the prophylactic medical policy administered in the country.