Since 1971, there has been a tax-based National Insurance Scheme. The public health service and the hospitals are the responsibility of the government at the central, county, and municipal levels. There are very few private hospitals in Norway. Hospital care is free of charge, but a minor sum is charged for medicine and primary health care. As of 1984, there has been a ceiling on the total amount one must pay for medical services. There is a three-part system made up of regional hospitals serving parts of the country, central hospitals serving the various counties, and local hospitals, also run by the counties. The country is in need of more nursing homes for the elderly. Most general hospitals are public; others are owned by the Norwegian Red Cross or other health or religious organizations. As of 1999, there were an estimated 2.8 physicians and 14.4 hospital beds per 1,000 people. As of 1999, total health care expenditure was estimated at 9.2% of GDP.
On the local level, health councils are responsible for public health services, including tuberculosis control and school health services, and for environmental sanitation. Only in densely populated areas are public health officers appointed on a full-time basis; otherwise they engage in private practice as well. In some areas, they are the only physicians available.
Infant mortality has been appreciably reduced in recent years and, in 2000, stood at 4 per 1,000 live births, one of the lowest rates in the world. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 12.4 and 9.8 per 1,000 people. In 1993, about 71% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception. Low birth weight was seen in 5% of all births in 1999. The maternal mortality rate was only 6 per 100,000 live births in 1998. Average life expectancy, among the highest in the world, was 79 years in 2000. As of 1999 the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was estimated at 1,600 and deaths from AIDS that year were estimated at 8. HIV prevalence was 0.1 per 100 adults. In 1996, there were 15,528 abortions.
In 1997, children up to one year of age were vaccinated against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 92%; polio, 92%; and measles, 93%. Tuberculosis tests are given on a regular basis from infancy onward. Children go through a comprehensive vaccination program and also receive psychotherapy and dental care throughout their nine years of basic school.
Tobacco consumption has decreased slightly from 2.0 kg (4.4 lbs) in 1984–86 to 1.9 kg (4.2 lbs) a year per adult in 1995. Alcohol consumption per capita was lower than the industrialized countries average.
The heart disease mortality rates were higher than the average for high human development countries. In the mid-1990s the likelihood of dying after age 65 of heart disease was 340 per 1,000 people for men and 374 per 1,000 for women. In 1993 there were 20,864 deaths from coronary artery disease.