|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.
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.
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.