Health standards have improved considerably since 1930. Average life expectancy in 2000 was 70 years. The infant mortality rate, 139.4 per 1,000 live births in 1930 to 1934, declined to 29 by 2000. The crude death rate, 23 per 1,000 in 1930 to 1934, dropped to an estimated 6.1 as of 2002. From 1979 to 1991, there were approximately 75,000 war-related deaths. The fertility rate has dropped from 5.3 in 1980 to 3.1 in 2000. Malnutrition persisted in an estimated 23% of children under five as of 2000. However, immunization rates for children up to one year old were quite high in 1997: tuberculosis, 93%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 97%; polio, 96%; and measles, 97%. The contraceptive prevalence for women was 60% as of 2000.
As of 1999, El Salvador had 7,298 physicians, or 1.1 per 1,000 people. In the same year, there were an estimated 1.6 hospital beds per 1,000 people. The Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare coordinates mobile health brigades, professional medical delegations, field offices, clinics, laboratories, and dispensaries. UNICEF, the US Institute of Inter-American Affairs, the Rockefeller Foundation, and other foreign organizations have assisted health campaigns. As of 1999 total health care expenditure was estimated at 7.2% of GDP.
The principal causes of death remain gastroenteritis, influenza, malaria, measles, pneumonia, and bronchitis, caused or complicated by malnutrition, bad sanitation, and poor housing. In 1994, major causes of death were noted as communicable diseases and maternal/perinatal causes (202 per 100,000), noncommunicable diseases (385 per 100,000), and injuries (201 per 100,000). In 2000, 74% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 83% had adequate sanitation. In 1999, there were 67 cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people. There were 1,416 new cases of AIDS reported in 1996 and 2,798 cases of malaria in 1994. As of 1999, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was estimated at 25,000 and deaths from AIDS that year were estimated at 1,300. HIV prevalence was 0.6 per 100 adults.
Much of the progress since the 1930s was undermined by the country's civil war, which overtaxed health care facilities while, in real terms, expenditures on health care declined. The National Medical School was shut down in 1980.