Jordan has an excellent health care system. It has been considerably improved since the 1970s. The government sponsors a health insurance program that allows all but the very poorest people to afford medical care, and there are free clinics to treat those without insurance. Insurance covers not only medical expenses but also dental and eye care.

The best hospitals are in the cities of Amman, Aqaba, Irbid and Zarqa. The Farah Centre is a renowned rehabilitation centre, and the Queen Alia Heart Institute and King Hussein Medical Centre both specialize in heart ailments.

The Noor al Hussein Foundation (NHF) supports a number of health projects in Jordan, including the Institute for Child Health and Development in Sweileh, north of Amman. Specialists in pediatric medicine at the Institute diagnose childhood illnesses and developmental problems and recommend treatment. The Institute also monitors child health throughout the country.

Other NHF projects include a family planning program for women, homes for orphaned or abandoned children and a quality of life project in several villages, designed to eradicate poverty and promote employment, education, good nutrition and self-reliance.Dysentery remains a common problem, because of the occasional contamination of water supplies. As Jordan prospers, it is also seeing an increase in cancer and heart disease (the so-called "diseases of prosperity"), caused by smoking, high-fat diets and lack of exercise.

At its current growth rate of around 3.4%, Jordan will have almost 6 million people by the year 2005. Although contraception is encouraged by the government to slow Jordan's birth rate, the practice is discouraged by religious leaders.

 Did you know?
The Dead Sea, on Jordan's western border, is the lowest point on earth at 400 metres below sea level, as well as being the saltiest body of water. Tourists flock to the sea to float in the extremely buoyant water - it's impossible to sink!