Republic of the Marshall Islands
181.43 km2(70.05 sq mi)
United States Dollar
Like many of its Pacific Islands counterparts, the Marshall Islands is facing a double burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In 2002, chronic disease accounted for 71% of all deaths, with cardiovascular disease being the major contributor. By 2010, diabetes and related diseases had taken over as the leading causes of mortality, with 7 out of 10 Marshallese people having elevated blood sugar levels and increasing number of younger people being diagnosed with diabetes (ADB, 2006; WHO, 2005). Cancer mortality has doubled from 13 cases to 26 cases between 2001 and 2010, and cerebrovascular accidents have almost tripled from 5 cases to 14 cases in the same period (WHO, 2005).
In 2012, there were 512 health workers employed by the Ministry of Health and 3 (a general medical practitioner, a dentist and a pharmacist) employed in the private sector. Overall, 54% of the health workforce is female. Almost half of the doctors and three-quarters of nurses are female. 60% of health workers are aged between 30 and 50 years. Many of the health workers in medicine and nursing are foreigners. 70% of doctors and 39% of nurses are expatriates, mainly from the Philippines and Fiji.
Hospitals in Majuro (101-bed Leroj Atama Medical Center) and Ebeye (45-bed Leroj Kitlang Health Center) provide primary, secondary and limited tertiary health care, as well as inpatient, outpatient and preventive health services. The Majuro hospital employs 65% of all health workers, offering services in general medicine, surgery, orthopaedics, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, dentistry and physical therapy. The Ebeye hospital is smaller and employs 27% of all health workers but it provides a similar range of services.
There are 58 health centres, mostly on the outer islands, which works in tandem with the community health councils to provide primary health care services, including;
– Disease screening
– Chronic and infectious disease management
– Prenatal, diabetic and hypertension treatment, family planning and skilled birth attendance
– Child health surveillance
– Management and referral to hospital of acute cases
– Health education in clinics and in schools
The Marshall Islands joined WHO on 5 June 1991 as a Member State. Before joining WHO in 1991, it was a member of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands dominated by the United States of America until the Office of the High Commissioner determined to end its existence on 10 July 1987. Thus all functions were transferred to individual governments including Marshall Islands.
The Marshall Islands was initially covered by the WHO Representative Office in Singapore, then by the WHO Representative Office in Taipei, China (Taiwan) from 1959 to 30 June 1972. In the same year, the responsibility for the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was transferred to the Regional Office. In 1976, it was decided that the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was to come under the WHO Representative Office in the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. In August 2010, the WHO Country Liaison Office in the Federated States of Micronesia was established to cover Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands.
Country Liaison Officer in Northern Micronesia:
Dr Eunyoung Ko (acting CLO)
PO BOX PS70
Department of Health and Social Affairs
Palikir, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel: (691) 320-8804
Ministry of health
The Ministry of Health oversees medical and health services in the Marshall Islands. The Health Services Board was established under the Health Fund Act to ensure that the Ministry is operated according to the policies and regulations outlined for off-islands medical referral services. The Board is chaired by the Secretary of Health and is made up of the Assistant Secretaries and the Medical Chief of Staff (ADB, 2005a). There are three bureaus within the Ministry (Primary Health Care Services, Majuro Hospital Services and Kwajalein Atoll Health Care Services) each headed by an Assistant Secretary who reports to the Secretary of Health.
Ministry of Health
P.O. Box 16
Majuro 96960 – Marshall Islands
Tel: (692) 625 3355/5661/3399
Health training institutions
There is no medical school in the Marshall Islands. Students can enrol in medical school programmes within the Pacific, such as the Fiji National University (FNU), University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) and the University of Hawaii. The University of Hawaii, in cooperation with the US Health Resources and Services Administration, developed the Pacific Association for Clinical Training (PACT), in which the Marshall Islands is involved. This provides e-learning services for those wishing to further their education.
Nursing is the only health profession with training available in-country. The College of the Marshall Islands confers a three-year Associate of Science in Nursing degree with graduates qualifying as registered nurses, known locally as Staff Nurse 1.
The University of the South Pacific, which has a campus in the Marshall Islands, is a key partner of POLHN. As such, it offers distance and internet education services ideal for Marshallese people. POLHN has two learning centres in the Marshall Islands: one at the Ebeye Community Health Centre and one at Majuro Hospital.
CMI was accredited by the US-based Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in 1991.
Geography and demographics
The Marshall Islands is a group of 1225 islands located in the South Pacific, close to the equator. The country gained independence in 1986 but is supported economically by a Compact of Free Association with the United States of America. This means that the US is the primary contributor to its economy. Other than this, the principal employers in the Marshall Islands are the government and the commercial and retail sectors. Domestic production is also on the rise, for instance in the areas of fisheries, handicrafts and subsistence agriculture. The Marshall Islands is a democratic nation, with a president and members of parliament elected every four years by universal suffrage.
An independent country, RMI is in a Compact of Free Association with the US. This means that the US provides the country with financial assistance, and in exchange has complete responsibility and authority over its security and defence. RMI is a democratic nation, with a president and members of parliament elected every four years by universal suffrage.
The RMI’s Compact of Free Association with the US is the primary contributor to its economy. Other than this, the principal employers in the Marshall Islands are the government and the commercial and retail sectors. Domestic production is also on the rise, for instance in the areas of fisheries, handicrafts and subsistence agriculture. The US Dollar is used as the currency.
Due to its thousands of islands and abundance of coral, RMI is an ideal travel spot. Principal tourist activities include diving, snorkelling, swimming and fishing. Sailing, in particular, is widely practised and is the primary method of transport between the islands.
Country health profile
WHO Country Cooperation Strategy 2018-2022: Marshall Islands
Access Marshall Islands country profile (CHIPS 2015-2016)
Access UHC and SDG country profile
Health Profiles – Marshall Islands, Health Financing
Human resources for health (HRH) country profile
National immunization data – EPI summaries by country
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