Ye Lianxi, a resident of the village of Yaole in south China's Guangdong province, goes to the Liaobu Township Community Health Service Center at least once a month for health examinations.
Ye, a woman in her 50s, was diagnosed with hypertension during a general health screening offered by the township's community health center in Liaobu, a township in the city of Dongguan, in 2009. She may have never known she had the chronic disease had she not received the check-up.
Doctors advised her to undergo health check-ups, obtain medicine and learn about hypertension every month in the center.
"If I miss a visit, the doctor calls me and reminds me to come," she said.
The health center in Liaobu is just one of 390 community health service organizations in the manufacturing hub of Dongguan. The city government launched a new community health service reformation in 2007, and has since established 33 community health service centers in its townships and 357 community health service stations in villages.
Dongguan has also implemented a basic social medical insurance system, allowing residents to be reimbursed for 70 percent of the cost of treatments in designated local community health service centers or stations.
"I had to pay 200 to 300 yuan (32 to 48 U.S. dollars) for each examination before the insurance. But now, I only need to pay less than 70yuan," said Ye.
Ye said it only takes her 10 minutes to walk to the center, which is more convenient than going to the hospital in the city and it is more likely that she will be able to see a doctor here than in a private clinic.
Wan Qiaoling, an official with the Dongguan Health Bureau, said the community health service system was once under great pressure as people worried that it would reduce outpatient visits in hospitals.
"Outpatient visits to the hospitals didn't drop as the amount of outpatient visits to community health service centers has increased. Because the foundation of the community health service centers allows more people who didn't know how to see a doctor, refused to see a doctor or could not afford medical expenses, to come to receive treatment," said Wan.
Statistics from the Dongguan Health Bureau show that the number of outpatient visits to the city's community health service institutions totaled over 14.3 million in 2011, up 17.9 percent year-on-year and accounting for 24 percent of the total number of medical institutions' outpatient visits in Dongguan.
Besides basic medical care, community health service institutions in Dongguan also cover a range of public health services, including health record management, health education and chronic disease management for diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.
Moreover, the 16 village-level health service stations affiliated with the community health service center of Liaobu township jointly set up eight hypertension clubs to carry out blood pressure monitoring, lifestyle counseling, medical guidance and weekly opportunities for patients to meet and share their experiences.
Liao Jinpeng, a doctor with the Community Health Station of the village of Fuzhushan in Liaobu, is in charge of the chronic disease publicity work for 340 hypertension patients and 80 diabetics.
Liao has come to the village to visit patients twice a week since 2009, and villagers there like to call him "Doctor Goubujiao," which means that even the dogs know him so well that they won't bark at him.
"The work is hard, but worthwhile," Liao said.