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Photo: Svenska Institutet

Health Care & Life Science

People in Sweden are living increasingly longer. The average life span is now 83.5 years for women and 79.5 years for men. This can be attributed in part to falling mortality rates from heart attacks and strokes. In 2010, 18 per cent of the country’s population was 65 or older. That means Sweden has one of Europe’s largest elderly populations as a proportion of the national total.

The so called Swedish model, often referred to in international politics, is based on the idea of a welfare state built on a high level of trust between the state and the citizen – an unwritten social contract that creates a balance between economic forces and a responsible approach to basic public services such as healthcare. This idea is traceable everywhere. For instance, the Swedish healthcare system provides 100% equal coverage for all citizens. Funding is allocated centrally and healthcare providers can be either public or private. Another key feature is the mutual understanding that the person with the greatest need always gets taken care of first. Simply put, the Swedish healthcare system is based on three principles.

  • It is budget controlled
  • It is tax based
  • It is founded on solidarity

The responsibility for health and medical care in Sweden is shared by the central government, county councils and municipalities. The Health and Medical Service Act regulates the responsibilities of county councils and municipalities, and gives local governments more freedom in this area. The role of the central government is to establish principles and guidelines, and to set the political agenda for health and medical care. Sweden is divided into 290 municipalities, 20 county councils and four regions – Gotland, Halland, Skåne and Western Götaland. There is no hierarchical relation between municipalities, county councils and regions.

Around 90 per cent of the work of Swedish county councils concerns health care, but they also deal with other areas such as culture and infrastructure. Sweden’s municipalities are responsible for care for the elderly in the home or in special accommodation. Their duties also include care for people with physical disabilities or psychological disorders and providing support and services for people released from hospital care as well as for school health care.

Costs for health and medical care represent about 10 per cent of Sweden’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is on par with most other European countries. County council costs for health and medical care, excluding dental, were SEK 196 billion (about USD 29 billion, EUR 21 billion) in 2010.

In Sweden, we have made great progress in a vast number of areas, from research and innovation to clinical practice and management. There are also fewer days of treatment for most diseases than many other countries. Internationally comparable statistics for 18 medical key factors including infant mortality and cancer and stroke mortality ranks Sweden as number one when comparing the performance of medical results.

The Swedish healthcare system promotes improvements, new thinking and innovation. A good idea if there ever was one. This phenomenon is well documented in Sweden, in many ways a greenhouse for innovation and discovery. Looking at published scientific articles in medicine and bioscience, Sweden qualifies in the global top three per capita. Looking at areas allied to pharmaceuticals, medical technology and biotechnology, Swedish researchers have a higher share of approved patent applications than many other countries. Swedish innovations like the pacemaker, GammaKnife, Titanium Screw and the Turbohaler have enhanced the lives of millions.

Surveys of innovation performance in the EU usually put Sweden in a top position, with factors like educational performance and strong public and private R&D expenditure earning high marks. The Swedish innovation model ties in closely with the Nobel Prize and benefit from all the traditions, international networks and scientific discoveries that surround it. This is evident in many sectors – research and development and life science being among the most prolific.

Like many other countries, Sweden faces numerous challenges, such as funding, quality and efficiency of its healthcare services. Meeting tomorrow’s healthcare needs requires an integrated approach where all stakeholders in the system work together in fruitful partnerships.
Based on the Swedish healthcare model, SymbioCare is an approach to health and medicine with a clear objective: to get all parts of the system to interact and provide world class care for everyone, using all resources effectively. SymbioCare is also a network of companies, consultants and organizations connecting health care providers, regulatory agencies, industry, research institutions and faculties of education to explore and make use of synergies.

Read more at www.symbiocare.org.

Supporting Partner