Israelis are living longer than they were 10 years ago, according to a report issued by the Health Ministry for publication on Wednesday.

The statistical report – comparing Israel’s health system results with those of the OECD, which Israel recently joined, and those collected in other countries by the World Health Organization – shows that in 2009, local women lived an average of 83.5 years, and men lived 79.7.

This marks an increase of 2.6 years and 3 years, respectively, since 2000, and is better than the OECD figures for men – though it is similar to those for women.

The report was produced with data from the ministry, the Central Bureau of Statistics and the National Insurance Institute.

Health Ministry Director- General Dr. Ronni Gamzu said that he and his staff were preparing a multi-year plan to improve residents’ health, longevity and quality of life.

According to the report, the average Israeli woman gives birth to her first baby at 26.5, compared to 25.3 a decade ago. The rate of babies born weighing less than 1.5 kilos has declined to 1 percent compared to 1.2% in 2000, and fewer babies are born prematurely.

Infant mortality rates are similar to those in the other OECD countries and declining, the report shows, with 3.8 per 1,000 live births – 2.7 for Jews and 7.6 for Muslims.

In 2000, the infant mortality rate among Arabs was four times the current rate.

In addition, Israeli population death rates have declined from six per 1,000 residents in 2000 to 5.2 today. Deaths are more common in the winter than in the warmer seasons.

Cancer became the leading cause of death in 2007 and remains so, with heart disease in second place. Deaths from infectious diseases are more common here than in other OECD countries, while suicide, road accidents, stroke and digestive system diseases are less common.

More men than women assess their health as good in most age groups, according to the report.

Congenital defects in newborns remain steady at 16 per 1,000 live births, the report shows, while 135 babies were born with Down’s Syndrome in 2008, or 0.9 per 1,000 live births.

Last year, 314 people – a third of them pedestrians – were killed in road accidents, but that number has already been surpassed this year. The suicide attempt rate is steady, at 79.2 per 100,000 per year.

The report further showed that while the health system has much to be proud of, it still suffers from a serious lack of hospital beds and infrastructure, severe health service gaps between the well-off and the poor, and a weakening of public medical services.

The number of licensed physicians (not all working in their professions) up to the age of 65 has declined by 8% since 2000, and the number of licensed dentists under 65 has declined by 4% to 8,089. The number of registered nurses up to the age of 60 has gone down to 41,597 since 2000, a decrease of 7%.

In addition, the ratio of general hospital beds has declined to 1.93 per 1,000 residents, from 2.22 at the end of 2000. Only 51 beds have been added since 2005, even though the population has grown – and aged – significantly. This ratio is below that of the other OECD countries.

Israeli patients, on average, spend many fewer days in the hospital than in the other OECD countries.

National expenditures for health services constitute 7.9% of the gross domestic product, lower than the mean in the OECD countries. Private health expenditures (by the individual) have risen to 42% compared to only 36% a decade ago, meaning that the government invests significantly less on health services.

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