LOOKING AT HEALTH CARE
Venezuela has both private and public health care systems. Public hospitals provide care for free, but patients have to bring their own medical supplies if there is a shortage of supplies at the hospital. Private clinics are used by the wealthy and those who have private health insurance. Unfortunately, because of recent economic problems, the government has not been able to invest as much in health care in the 1980s and the 1990s, and some hospitals are in need of repairs.
Children are immunized against contagious diseases such as measles. In the past, people used to die of malaria, a disease carried by mosquitoes, or cholera, which is spread by unsafe drinking water. These diseases are now being brought under control. Today people are more likely to die of heart disease or cancer. The rate of AIDS is also increasing in cities such as Caracas. Venezuela has a poor road safety record and many people die in car accidents.
   Did you know?
In 1998, the average Venezuelan man lived to the age of 71 and the average woman lived to be 76. 
Venezuela suffers from a shortage of nurses. Doctors also tend to stay in larger cities, which means that people in remote areas often lack medical care. The Venezuelan government has tried to solve this problem by requiring medical graduates to work in rural areas for two years.

 The indigenous peoples have a long tradition of curing diseases that have baffled many Western doctors. Doctors and drug companies have visited the Venezuelan rainforest to learn from indigenous shamans, who still use plants and herbs for healing. Many people use herbs such as yanten for common colds and pasote as a laxative. In the case of a snakebite, a shaman massages and sucks on the diseased area of the body, which draws the illness out of the body. Then the shaman blows the illness out and away from other people. The Wakenai treat illnesses by singing special songs. This practice is called malikai and is used to communicate with spirits that cause illness and also with spirits that heal.

   Did you know?
Dr. Josť Gregorio HernŠndez was Venezuela's most famous doctor. He treated the poor for free and even bought them medicines with his own money. After his death at the turn of the century, people began to pray to him when they were sick. Venezuelans have petitioned the Vatican to have him declared a saint.