China has 1.5 doctors and 2.4 hospital beds for every 1,000 head of population. In Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and other large cities, general, traditional Chinese medicine and hospitals that specialize in, for example, cancer, cardio- and cerebro-vascular disorders, ophthalmology, dentistry and infectious diseases can be found. Medium-sized cities throughout China have general and specialized hospitals equipped with modern facilities. In the countryside, medical, prevention, and health-care networks at county, township and village levels have taken shape. With the establishment and development of health and medical-care organizations and the gradual spread of good hygiene habits, infectious diseases and parasitic diseases, formerly the major killers, have been replaced by cancers, cardio- and cerebro-vascular diseases, creating a picture close to that of the developed countries. The health of urban and rural residents has been greatly improved; average life expectancy is now 71.8 years, five years more than the international average.
"Prevention first" is one of the important principles in all of China's health care work. All administrations have created hygiene and disease-prevention organizations responsible for overall management of these functions including hygiene and anti-epidemic stations, forming a nationwide network of hygiene supervision and epidemic prevention. In order to eliminate or control some serious epidemic and local diseases, the NPC and the State Council has issued the Law on the Prevention and Cure of Infectious Diseases, the National Plan for Poliomyelitis Elimination by the Year 1995, and National Outline for IDD Elimination by the Year 2000. Disease prevention work was further strengthened and made outstanding achievements.
In May 2003, the State Council issued Regulations on Public Health Emergencies, establishing a legal framework for tackling public health crises. Furthering its cooperation with the World Health Organization, the state plans significant investment in a system to handle all public health crises, improving the responsiveness and capabilities of emergency centers, treatment systems and hospitals’ information systems.
Reform in urban medical care and changes in the make-up of society have prompted the spread to most cities of community-based health services whose main role is anti-epidemic work but which also provide treatment and health-care. These popular organizations are geared to handle at grassroots-level problems arising from increased urbanization, population aging, changes in disease patterns and social strata.
In 2003, China embarked on a new-type of rural cooperative medical care system. Based on major illness health insurance cover, the system follows a payment plan by the individual, financial support from the collective, and subsidies from the government. Once a farmer who has joined the scheme is hospitalized, incurred costs can be reimbursed on a sliding scale. This medical care system is expected to cover the whole country by 2010. Meanwhile, China will establish and practice a medical-aid system in rural areas that offer medical aid to poor rural residents who are seriously ill. Plans are set for a standardized rural medical-aid system throughout the country in 2005. The medical-aid fund, specially allocated by various levels of government and with donations from people from all walks of life, will be used exclusively for medical aid.