Bolivia has a public health care system, as well as private health clinics. There are three levels of public health care. The first is composed of small local health centres, which handle routine matters and minor complaints, often using traditional healing practices. The second level of care is provided by small district hospitals. The third level is for urgent or specialized cases and is provided in general or specialized hospitals.

Malaria (which is spread by mosquitoes) and Chagas disease (which is caused by a tiny parasite and spread by insects called vinchucas) are life-threatening illnesses that are common in Bolivia. There have been some outbreaks of cholera, a disease caused by contaminated water. Leprosy and tuberculosis are problems in some areas. Bolivians may also suffer from heart disease and cancer.

Malnutrition is a problem for poor families, especially for indigenous people in rural areas. Although rural health centres have been established, people in remote areas still have limited access to health care. Certain jobs also carry special health risks. Miners are at risk of lung diseases such as silicosis or tuberculosis.

Some people who visit the mountainous regions of Bolivia develop sorojche (altitude sickness). Usually, people recover from sorojche after resting. In the past, people dealt with the problem by chewing on a coca leaf. Medical institutes, such as the Institute of Altitude Pathology and the Institute of Altitude Biology at the University of Bolivia in La Paz, study the effects of altitude on the human body.

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The coca leaf has been used since ancient times to combat stomach pains, hunger, fatigue, altitude sickness and other common maladies. It is chewed and also put in gums, cough syrups, toothpastes and teas.
Bolivians living in rural areas may use traditional medicine to treat health problems or visit a yatiri (shaman) or thaliri (fortune teller). Indigenous peoples, especially those who live in the rainforests, use plants to cure illnesses. Many doctors and researchers have studied their methods to learn about the healing properties of plants. Teas called matés are popular stomach remedies. Matés of chamomile, anise and coca are quite common. Trimaté combines all three ingredients. A common cold remedy for adults is a drink called té con té, which contains alcohol. Another popular cure for colds is the juice of an onion or a turnip sweetened with sugar.

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One special group of Aymara people is called Kallawaya, which means "medicine on the shoulder." They carry packs of herbs on their shoulders. They were once the healers of the Incan emperors and are still knowledgeable about herbal medicines. The drug quinine, which is used around the world to treat malaria, was discovered by the Kallawaya.