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Health Poverty Quite Serious in China: Expert
An article published recently by Hu Angang, director of National Conditions Study Center under CAS and professor of Tsinghua University, in a magazine "Transition" points out that the goals of health work and basic health service have fallen far behind the GDP achievements that have been quadrupled. That is to say, China hasn't achieved the goal in social development for "everyone to enjoy the elementary medical treatment". There still exist many a health poverty problem in China.

According to him, China was listed at the 144th place when the World Health Organization (WHO) made an assessment, for the first time in 2000, of its 191 members in the field of medical system and performance efficiency. This roused a great echo both at home and abroad.

China's issues in the field of medical service, Hu Angang points out, mainly reflect in the following aspects. First, there are nearly 100 million people receiving no medical service with 30 million poverty people getting no medical treatment in time while only less than 20 percent of rural counties in the country are qualified or basically qualified for the standard of "everyone enjoying the basic medical treatment". Secondly, over 100 million people can't get clean drinkable water, more than 400 million people in rural areas having no tap water to drink and the ratio of harmless treatment of excrement is only 28.5 percent. Thirdly, the objective to reduce the mortality of pregnant and lying-in women and women's morbidity is not yet achieved and the average mortality of them in the nine provinces in southwest and northwest China is as high as 0.177 percent, 2.8 times over the national mortality of 0.056 percent. Fourthly, nearly 8 percent infants haven't got inoculated with the ratio in poverty areas even as high as 13 percent and the goal to make the new-born children's incidence of tetanus to be below 0.1 percent hasn't been realized. Fifthly, the prevention and healthcare are quite weak and the morbidity of various diseases is still high in mid-west China and the life expectancy is relatively short. Sixthly, the medical expenditure at various levels and the total input in medical work are all below the planned goal and the minimum standard as set by WHO and the financial subsidies to health and medical cause are not rationally used.

Hu is of opinion that the common understanding will be easily reached both in bodies for policy-making and the whole society due to the SARS incident. There are five basic policies determined by the five characteristics of China's basic conditions in the field of medical work.

First, as China is to resolve the issue of health and medical treatment for one-fifth population of the world with very limited medical resources, the policy of " low level, wide coverage and high efficiency" must be carried out. Secondly, as China's per capita expense for medical treatment is below the international average standard, the fundraising channels must be diversified, relying mainly on private and social payment. Thirdly, as the coverage rates of all sorts of medical services and facilities are obviously low as compared with the social and economical development, common facilities must be provided to all people. Fourthly, as obvious gaps lie in the distribution of public resources and in medical levels among urban and rural areas, the key area for medical work and investment must be put in the countryside. Fifthly, in those areas where obvious gaps in the distribution of public resources and medical services exist, timely help must be given to the poverty-stricken areas and people.

Hu Angang says that only when the strategy to invest for people's health is successfully implemented, Chinese people can be healthier, have higher productivity and live a longer and happier life.

(People's Daily July 15, 2003)

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