Although public health has improved considerably in the past two decades, and there has been a greater rate of improvement in this area since the Revolution of 25 April 1974, severe public health problems continue to plague Portugal. The death rate has decreased and life expectancy has increased (in 1989-90, life expectancy was about 71 for males and 78 for females, and by 2000 this had increased), but public health problems in Portugal continue to be severe; statistics especially in rural Portugal were typical of many poor countries. Recent improvements in the health picture include an improved medical educational system, better medical technology, and an increased number of doctors and medical personnel. There has also been some increase in the number of hospitals (in 1975, there were 229 hospitals and, in 1990, 239) and the number of beds available for patients. Basic health knowledge in the general population, however, remains low, especially in rural areas. Traditionally, medical resources continue to be most available in the major cities of Lisbon, Oporto, and Coimbra.
   Along with increased migration from Portugal's former colonies and with European Union membership and its concomitant freer traffic across land frontiers, there has been an increase in the numbers of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency (HIV/AIDS) cases. Although not on the scale of some other Western European or North African countries, Portugal's HIV/AIDS situation has aroused national concern.
   An important sign of improving health care is that, as more women enter professional fields, more women choose to become doctors. Observers note that public health and medical improvements remain closely linked to reforms in education and better living conditions in both urban and rural areas where substandard housing, sanitation facilities, hygiene, and clean water supplies remain persistent problems.
   See also Economy; Education.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.


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