Henry and Igor by statue

Located on the northern shore of the Black Sea, Ukraine is a nation about the size of Texas and lies between Poland and Russia. Its population, currently just under 46 million people, is gradually shrinking, as Ukraine has a negative growth rate. The capital, Kyiv (formerly spelled Kiev), is located in the north central region, along the Dnieper River. About 70 percent of the population lives in urban areas. Ukraine was the second largest economic force of the Soviet Union, producing a large proportion of the country’s agricultural output, but these levels were not sustained after the nation became independent in 1991. Recent foreign investment in Ukraine has been hampered by corruption, complex regulations and weak enforcement of contract laws. The nation’s economy, which experienced rapid growth in the early 2000s, has cooled considerably, and analysts predict an economic contraction in 2009.

The 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, and the efforts of the Soviet government to conceal the accident and its fallout led to the contamination of about 8 percent of Ukraine’s land mass, contributing to significantly higher cancer rates, particularly thyroid, in the region. According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence that the Chernobyl incident contributed to a higher incidence of brain tumors. The tumors Marsh sees in Kyiv are the same as those he sees in London, except they are often larger due to a lack of early diagnosis. The disaster did add to Ukraine’s environmental woes, as did the country’s role as an industrial center in the Soviet era, when lax regulation allowed extensive pollution to build up.

» “Background Note: Ukraine.” U.S. Department of State. May 2009.
» “Country Profile: Ukraine.” BBC News. Aug. 5, 2009.
»”Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programmes (PDF).” World Health Organization. 2006.
» “The Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident: A Strategy for Recovery (PDF).” United Nations. Jan. 25, 2002.
» “Thyroid Carcinoma After Chernobyl Latent Period, Morphology and Aggressiveness.” E.D. Williams et al. British Journal of Cancer (2004) 90, 2219-2224. May 11,2004.
» “Ukraine.” The CIA World Factbook. May 13, 2009.
» “Ukraine’s Hybrid Healthcare System.” Gabriel Gatehouse. BBC News. July 2, 2008.

Health Care in Ukraine

Ukraine, like many of the former components of the Soviet Union, maintains a public health system, in which health care is, in theory, provided by the state free-of-charge. In actuality, the state system is troubled by a maze of bureaucracy and rules that can prevent it from providing the most up-to-date care, particularly for complex conditions that require surgery. Some doctors have developed a hybrid approach in which basic care is provided by the state, while individuals pay for other aspects of their treatments, including surgical supplies and equipment that is not provided by the state.

Infant mortality rates and life expectancy figures in Ukraine are relatively poor; there are 8.98 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, making the country 158th among all nations; the life expectancy for the general population is 68.25 years, which ranks it 150th in the world. The age distribution of the population has shifted notably in the last two decades, as fewer babies have been born and many young people have emigrated. High rates of smoking and alcohol consumption also help keep the nation’s life expectancy low. Public health programs suffered in the 1990s, as funding from the Soviet government disappeared. As a result, the incidence of many infectious diseases rose.

The situation outside Ukraine’s urban centers is generally more dire. In rural areas, the ratio of health-care providers to patients is significantly lower than in cities. Many of the providers are general practitioners who travel across large areas to provide basic care. Advanced treatment of diseases is generally available only in metropolitan areas.

» “Health Care Systems in Transition: Ukraine (PDF).” Valeria Lekhan et al. The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. 2004.
» “Ukraine.” The CIA World Factbook. May 13, 2009.
» “Ukraine’s Hybrid Healthcare System.” Gabriel Gatehouse. BBC News. July 2, 2008.

Ukrainians and Eastern Europeans in the United States

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were just under 900,000 Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans in the United States, primarily concentrated around New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and Detroit. These populations largely reflect the settlement patterns of Eastern European in the United States.

Profile of Selected Demographic and Social Characteristics: People Born in Ukraine (PDF).” U.S. Census. 2000.