Health in Portugal

The Hospital of Santa Maria, Lisbon

Health in Portugal is characterized by the existence of a high quality healthcare system (ranked as the 9th best in Europe and 12th in the World), allowing the country to achieve good rankings in several health indexes.


According to the latest Human Development Report, the average life expectancy in 2014 was 80.0 years.[1] The Portuguese healthcare system was ranked number 12 in overall performance by the World Health Organization in a 2000 report ranking the healthcare systems of each of the 190 United Nations member nations. Nonetheless it ranked number 27 as the most expensive per capita healthcare system.[2]

Similar to the other Eur-A countries, most Portuguese die from noncommunicable diseases. Mortality from cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is higher than in the Eurozone, but its two main components, ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, display inverse trends compared with the Eur-A, with cerebrovascular disease being the single biggest killer in Portugal (17%). Portuguese people die 12% less often from cancer than in the Eur-A, but mortality is not declining as rapidly as in the Eur-A. Cancer is more frequent among children as well as among women younger than 44 years. Although lung cancer (slowly increasing among women) and breast cancer (decreasing rapidly) are scarcer, cancer of the cervix and the prostate are more frequent. Portugal has the highest mortality rate for diabetes in the Eur-A, with a sharp increase since the late 1980s.

Portugal’s infant mortality rate has dropped sharply since the 1980s, when 24 of 1000 newborns died in the first year of life. It is now around 3 deaths per a 1000 newborns. This improvement was mainly due to the decrease in neonatal mortality, from 15.5 to 3.4 per 1000 live births.

People are usually well informed about their health status, the positive and negative effects of their behaviour on their health and their use of health care services. Yet their perceptions of their health can differ from what administrative and examination-based data show about levels of illness within populations. Thus, survey results based on self-reporting at the household level complement other data on health status and the use of services. Only one third of adults rated their health as good or very good in Portugal (Kasmel et al., 2004). This is the lowest of the Eur-A countries reporting and reflects the relatively adverse situation of the country in terms of mortality and selected morbidity.[3]

In 2015 it was estimated that 13.09% of the population has diabetes, costing about $2,011 per person per year.[4]

Healthcare system

The Portuguese healthcare system is composed of three coexisting systems: the National Health Service (Portuguese: Serviço Nacional de Saúde, SNS), special social health insurance schemes for certain professions (health subsystems) and voluntary private health insurance. The SNS provides universal coverage although they have recently been implemented measures to ensure the sustainability of the service, for example, the implementation of user fees that are paid at the end of the treatments.[5] In addition, about 25% of the population is covered by the health subsystems, 10% by private insurance schemes and another 7% by mutual funds. The Ministry of Health is responsible for developing health policy as well as managing the SNS. The Health Regulatory Entity or ERS is the public independent entity responsible for the regulation of the activity of all the public, private and social healthcare providers.

Health Cluster Portugal

Champalimaud Foundation in Lisbon, a world class biomedical research institution and one of the founders of the HCP.

Portugal has been identified as a center of competence in health connected activities, with the potential to become a cluster of excellence with international vocation.

In order to develop that potential, in 2008, several public and private organizations related with the health sector - including medical services providers, pharmaceutical industrial companies, universities and research and development entities - founded the Health Cluster Portugal (HCP). Its objective is to make Portugal a competitive player in the research, design, development, manufacture and marketing of products and associated health services in niche markets and selected technology, targeting the most demanding and most important international markets.

The strategy of the HCP focuses in the development of the following areas:


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