Country profile

The Italian Republic is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe with a population of over 60 million inhabitants making it the fifth most populous country in Europe. Italy enjoys a very high standard of living, and has a high nominal GDP per capita of $39,499 (2018 est.). The country’s main economic sectors are tourism, fashion, engineering, chemicals, motor vehicles, and food. Italy’s northern regions are per capita amongst the richest in Europe. Life expectancy at birth in Italy reached 82.7 years in 2015, up from 79.9 years in 2000

Italy has an excellent health system. The World Health Organization ranks Italy number 2 in the world. Healthcare is provided to all citizens and residents by a mixed public-private system. The public part is the national health service (SSN = Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) which is organized under the Ministry of Health and it’s administered on a regional basis, with the central government sharing responsibility for health care with the country’s 19 regions and two autonomous provinces. However, inter-regional inequity is a long-standing concern. The less affluent southern regions suffer from a paucity in the number of beds, availability of advanced medical equipment, and less-developed community care services than the more affluent northern regions. The National Health Plan for 2006–2008 cited overcoming large regional discrepancies in care quality as a key objective for future reform.



Policy responses

In Italy health inequalities are mainly represented by differences in terms of health status (especially concerning non-EU immigrants and Roma population) rather than in terms of access to healthcare. Polices that do address health inequalities tended to do so implicitly. However, since 2007 the Italian strategy has been based on two main strongly inter linked programmes. The national Programme ‘Gaining health: making healthy choices easier’ and the ‘National Prevention Plan’. Gaining health is a Government initiative, adopted in 2007 and led by Ministry of Health, which follows the Health-in-All-Policies approach. It aims to promote cross-sectoral actions, facilitate healthy behaviours, and to prevent NCDs by counteracting the main modifiable risk factors (tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity). The programme promotes health through integration between actions to encourage citizens’ empowerment and actions to stimulate stakeholders’ and institutions’ responsibility. This aims to create supportive-to-health environments and facilitate the adoption of healthy lifestyles. The new National Prevention Plan, running from 2014 to 2018, addresses many topics, including health promotion, to be tackled at regional level. All the Italian Regions, in their Regional Prevention Plans, have programmed actions against unhealthy lifestyles in line with the cross-sectoral approach suggested by “Gaining Health”.


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 Italy working on health inequality issues:


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Key resources

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

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