Country profile

The Republic of Latvia lies in the Baltic region in the north of Europe. After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Latvia became a democratic republic. The population counts around 2,2 million people, making Latvia one of the least populated countries in Europe. In 2004 Latvia joined the European Union, and underwent substantial growth. However, the economy stagnated during the financial crisis in 2008, and poverty in Latvia is still extensive with an increasing degree of income inequality.

In 2009, Latvia was divided into 109 municipalities and nine cities, together forming 118 administrative divisions. To promote a balanced development across these divisions, five planning regions are charged with coordinating action across the borders.
The country has a universal healthcare system, for the most part funded through government taxes. The Latvian healthcare system receives one of the worst rankings in Europe, and the average life expectance of 72.2 is the second lowest in the EU. Significant challenges to achieving an effective healthcare system are corruption and a loss of qualified labor to other European countries. Latvia is dealing with severe public health issues, including a high rate of HIV, alcohol abuse and one of the highest suicide rates in the world.


Policy responses

The issue of health inequalities is present on the Latvian political agenda, and the engagement of the Government in tackling the problem is demonstrated by the active participation of Latvian representatives in the EU Expert Group on the Social Determinants and Health Inequalities, as well as in the Joint Action on Health Inequalities. The work carried out by WHO and the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health constitute important reference models, and the EC Communication of 2009 has certainly had important effects in improving the quality of the new policy documents produced by the Latvian government to address health inequalities. Cross-government collaboration is also in place, especially with sectors such as welfare, education, and, to a certain extent, environment.

As a result of the economic crisis attention on the issue of health inequalities has increased, since more and more people are economically affected. However, the current economic situation also affects the overall budget, imposing cuts that hinder the implementation of the measures to tackle health inequalities, despite the presence of monitoring and evaluation plans.

An overview of policy responses addressing health inequalities in can be found in our Policy Database.


Good practices

An overview of projects and initiatives that are currently taking place or that have successfully been finalized, and that are addressing health inequality issues, can be found in our Project Database.

Key actors

Please find below an overview of key actors in Latvia working on health inequality issues:


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Key resources

Please find below an overview of relevant documents addressing health inequality issues in Latvia. Further publications can be found in our Publications Database.


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