News / Asia

Chinese Health Care Improves, but More Reforms Needed

Newly born babies receive vaccines at a hospital in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 10, 2012.
Newly born babies receive vaccines at a hospital in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 10, 2012.
China says it has improved the quality health care to its population, but observers say continued reforms are needed to fix a dysfunctional system that is still plagued by high costs and uneven access.

A government white paper released this week says health care reforms launched in 2009 have made medical services more affordable and accessible, and have narrowed a substantial gap between care received in urban and rural regions.

Beijing has set the goal of providing universal health care to all residents, both urban and rural, by 2020. To reach that objective, health care spending is projected to triple to $1 trillion annually by 2020.

China life expectancyChina life expectancy
x
China life expectancy
China life expectancy
The government says its investment in health care is paying off. Ninety-five percent of China's 1.3 billion people are covered by some form of health insurance, making it what the white paper said is the "world's largest network of basic medical security."

"No other country in the world has implemented system-wide reforms so rapidly," says Dr. Michael O'Leary, the World Health Organization's Representative to China. "In other countries, it's taken years to make similar achievements."

Out-of-Pocket Expenses Still High

China's infant mortality rateChina's infant mortality rate
x
China's infant mortality rate
China's infant mortality rate
O'Leary tells VOA he is "greatly impressed" by Beijing's success in providing health coverage to such a large percentage of the population. But he says medical costs are still high, even for the insured.

"The insurance schemes cover a very large percentage of the population, but not at a very deep level," O'Leary says. "So when health care costs are higher, there's still out-of-pocket expenses, and that remains a major challenge."

Observers say out-of-pocket expenses have been devastating for many in rural areas, where a chronic or catastrophic illness can threaten to plunge lower-income residents back into poverty.

Reforms Spread Unevenly

China Health ExpenditureChina Health Expenditure
x
China Health Expenditure
China Health Expenditure
Another challenge is the uneven spread of China's health care reform. Michael Woodhead, a Britain-based medical researcher and author who focuses on China, tells VOA many of China's rural areas are still served by makeshift medical practitioners with little training.

"At the very lowest level, the village level, the health care practitioners are often people who have descended from the 'barefoot doctors.' They don't have medical training, they perhaps have a year in college. And they're often providing all the services for the poorest people in China," says Woodhead.

Woodhead says high drug prices, a lack of qualified doctors and nurses, and an aging population are just a few of the the many problems still facing China as it overhauls its health care system.

China's white paper acknowledges as much, saying that its healthcare undertakings still fall "far short of the public's demands for healthcare as well as the requirements of economic and social development."

But many observers, including Woodhead, agree that, despite the obstacles, China is making steady progress toward providing quality health care for its citizens.

"They are moving in the right direction," says Woodhead. "Trying to turn it around and provide a universal health care system for 1.3 billion people is a huge undertaking."

You May Like

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

What Happens When Americans Eat What They Tweet

You are what you tweet, according to new maps that show a correlation between obesity and tweeting about high-fat foods More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Charlie from: Shenzhen
December 27, 2012 10:48 PM
As I know, the government sets the limitation of 800 yuan for each migrant worker each year for clinic curement, but hospitals charge a high price, so that is far not enough
In Response

by: miragesky2049
January 06, 2013 9:52 PM
yeah it's true
In Response

by: Anonymous
January 06, 2013 9:46 PM
It needs time to cover for everyone , every item.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs