The health system of Uruguay is one of the best in South America, a legacy of progressive social legislation in the early 20th century. Although the system deteriorated during the period of military government in the 1970s, and economic problems in the 1990s increased health problems related to poverty, the system is still good.

Uruguayans, by law, have access to health care in public hospitals and clinics. In rural areas, however, medical care is not as easily available as it is in Montevideo, although some local clinics provide emergency first aid. The Hospital de Clinícas in Montevideo is the most important public hospital. There are also private clinics that provide treatment by specialists for patients who are able to pay fees. 

Because the climate is mild in Uruguay, tropical diseases are not as much of a problem as they are in other South American countries. The water supply is reliable and wastewater systems are modern. Vaccinations against major infectious diseases such as tuberculosis are compulsory. Social and labour legislation ensures that safe working conditions are implemented in the workplace. Smoking, however, has adversely affected the health of many people.

In the northern parts of the country, near Brazil, some people follow traditional African health practices. For example, illness is thought to be caused by the ill will of hechiceros or brujas, that is, male or female witches. Curanderas are folk doctors who use herbs to cure illnesses brought about by the mal de ojo (the evil eye).

  Did you know?
In the west, along the River Uruguay, there are several well-known hot springs, such as Termas de Daymán and Termas del Arapey, where the waters are rich in minerals. People go there to relax in the warm waters and relieve ailments such as arthritis.