The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday warned of worsening health in the country's vast rural areas while praising the government for its commitment to improve healthcare in the countryside.
"The health indicators have failed to improve in pace with the economic indicators," said Margaret Chan when addressing a conference on rural primary healthcare in China.
"The health gap between rural and urban areas has grown even wider and health in parts of rural China is deteriorating."
Medical costs are rising faster than the growth of per capita income in rural areas, she added.
She said she appreciated the government's efforts and plans to build a medical system for all people, saying "when fair and accessible public health services become the clear targets of a country's public health policy, people's health will be improved".
The WHO chief said she had noticed that the tasks on improving people's well-being in the report by Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), at the 17th CPC National Congress included a basic medical insurance system for urban dwellers and a cooperative medical care system in rural areas.
She said recent WHO research has found that diseases are the source of poverty for 30 to 50 percent of the rural population of 737 million.
A growing number of rural people, especially the aged, are suffering from various diseases; however, few have access to decent healthcare, she told the conference.
Chan criticized the practice of allowing healthcare services to be commercialized in rural area, warning that it will cause the patients deeper suffering.
The government has pledged to provide its population with basic medical care by 2020.
It is expanding medical care through the Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme, a plan under which subscribers are funded to the tune of 50 yuan (US$6.4) per person - 20 yuan (US$2.6) from the central government, 20 yuan from the local government and 10 yuan (US$1.3) from the individual.
Vice-Minister of Health Chen Xiaohong said nearly 85 percent of the country's rural area, or 2,429 counties, are participating in the plan.
(China Daily November 2, 2007)