The global economic and financial crisis is having and impact on the Italian healthcare system which is undergoing a devolution process from the central government to regions and where about one third of the regional governments (mainly in the central and southern part of the country) are facing large financial deficits. The paper briefly describes the current macro scenario and the main responses taken to face the crisis and highlights the downside risks of introducing "linear" cuts in the allocation of resources. While justified by the risk of a national debt default, present fiscal policies might increase inequalities in access to care, deteriorate overall health indicators and population wellbeing, and sharpen existing difference in the quality of care between regions. Preliminary evidence shows that the crisis is affecting the quality of nutrition and the incidence of psychiatric disorders. During this difficult financial situation Italy is also facing the risk of a major reduction in investments for preventive medicine, Evidence Based Medicine infrastructures, health information systems and physical capital renewal. This cost-cutting strategy may have negative long term consequences Also, important achievement in terms of limiting waiting lists, improving continuity of care and patients' centeredness, and promoting integration between social and health care may be negatively affected by unprecedented resources' cuts. It is essential that in such a period of public funding constraints health authorities monitor incidence of diseases and access to care of the most vulnerable groups and specifically target interventions to those who may be disproportionally hit by the crisis.
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