In keeping with its recognition of Happiness as a primary indicator of the country’s wellbeing, Bhutan began to treat healthcare as a fundamental right, understanding that health is a key component of Happiness. Today, 7.4–11.4% of total government spending is in the health sector.
Amazing and inspiring Bhutan…a tiny and remote kingdom nestled in the Himalayas between its powerful neighbors, India and China. Almost completely cut off for centuries, Bhutan has tried to let in some aspects of the outside world while fiercely guarding its ancient traditions. The Bhutanese name for Bhutan, Druk Yul, means “Land of the Thunder Dragon” and it is only since the 1970s that the country has been open to outsiders. Bhutan is a Buddhist country and was a monarchy until 2008, when the king decided to turn the power of the throne over to a democratic system, adopting a constitution and setting up elections.
It was the fourth king of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, who in 1974, formulated the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which posits that happiness is a public good and all policies and development should be assessed against this objective.
In keeping with its recognition of Happiness as a primary indicator of the country’s wellbeing, Bhutan began to treat healthcare as a fundamental right, understanding that health is a key component of Happiness. Every Bhutanese citizen was immediately covered by the government for all healthcare costs. Today, 7.4–11.4% of total government spending is in the health sector. Primary healthcare is emphasized; privatization of health services is prohibited. Given that 70% of the population lives in rural areas, the government created local clinics and increased the number of hospitals around the country. In addition, trainees were sent to other countries to train as nurses and physicians. In 1975, when commitment to universal healthcare commenced in Bhutan, life expectancy was 38.9. Today, life expectancy is 68.
The National Health Promotion Strategic Plan (NHPSP) is the first of its kind in the history of Bhutan’s health system. Its ultimate goal is to create healthy public policies by taking a holistic approach to GNH. The strategic plan seeks to provide policy makers, health promoters, educators and other stakeholders with a broad strategic framework to development and strengthen health promotion within the health sector and across government, private and civil organizations for the period 2015-2023.
More info about Bhutan NHPSP can be found here.