New Report Reveals Death Rate Gap Between Israel's Center and Outlying Areas

The death rate for men in southern districts is 26 percent higher than in the Tel Aviv district and 11 percent higher than the national average.

A gap in the death rate between residents of the center of the country and those of outlying areas has been revealed in a new Health Ministry study. The researchers blame the lack of hospital beds and doctors in the perihpery.

The data reveal that the death rate in Tel Aviv among 75-year-olds, for example, is far lower than in most other parts of the country when it comes to treatable illnesses.

The report published in the Israel Journal of Health Policy Research, of the National Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research, studied death rates from curable diseases per 1,000 people, among Israelis up to the age of 75. The diseases included breast cancer, colorectal cancer, skin cancer, leukemia, heart disease, strokes, infectious diseases including the flu, kidney disease and malfunctions of the reproductive and urinal systems.

The analysis of the death rates between 2007 and 2009 reveals a worrying gap between the center of the country and outlying areas. The death rate for men in southern districts is 89.8 per 1,000 - 26 percent higher than in the Tel Aviv district (70.8 percent), and 11 percent higher than the national average. Death rates for women are also significantly higher in the south: 74.6 - 19 percent higher than in the Tel Aviv district ( 62.4 percent), and 14 percent higher than the national average.

Researchers Nehama Goldberger and Ziona Haklai of the Health Ministry data center said the gaps between center and outlying areas fit in with other statistics, such as lower ratios of hospital beds per 1,000 residents in the southern and northern districts (1.38 beds per 1,000 residents, and 1.48 per 1,000, respectively ), in comparison to the Jerusalem district ( 2.23 percent ), Tel Aviv ( 2.5 percent) and Haifa (2. 62 percent).

Another telling gap is the number of doctors employed in each district per 1,000 residents. In the northern district there are only 1.6 doctors per 1,000 residents, and in the southern district 2.2. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem there are 3.8 per 1,000 residents, in Haifa 4.3, and in Tel Aviv 5.2 doctors per 1,000 residents.

Still the researchers found one anomaly: In the Haifa district, which enjoys high rates of hospital beds and doctors, there are still higher death rates than in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This indicates there is another factor, apart from health infrastructure, that affects the high death rate in Haifa and its surroundings.

The good news is that death rates have gone down in the last decade by 31 percent among men and 28 percent among woman. "This proves that medical care has been successful in decreasing amenable mortality [meaning deaths avoidable through health care], but there is urgent need to improve the care and health education in outlying areas," the researchers said.

The average death rates in Israel are similar to these in 20 European countries, but data reveals that urinal and reproductive-system diseases cause 9 percent of the deaths - much higher than in Poland (4 percent ), France (3 percent ), Germany (3 percent ), the Netherlands (2 percent ) and Britain (1 percent ). Goldberger and Haklai believe this is a result of unhealthy habits, including eating too much salt, not getting enough exercise, smoking and drinking sweet beverages.