Healthy China initiative emphasizes prevention
China has made huge strides in its national health since
the 1950s when life expectancy was less than 45 years (today, it’s 76-79 years).
I was born there in the 1980s and grew up through the beginning phase of
economic reform and opening up to the world. The hospital infrastructure and
quality of services has gotten much better, and there has been a growth in
community healthcare providers and pharmacies. My parents and their generation
say the entire healthcare system has improved tremendously. Government,
universities and corporations have also been giving a great deal of attention
to this area, especially with big data and AI trending.
When I saw that a recent issue of The Lancet Public Health was focused entirely on China and its mission to advance public health, naturally it caught my attention. With articles on everything from the effort to eliminate cervical cancer to improving child and adolescent health, the issue looks at China’s development from many angles, with a particular emphasis on the Healthy China 2020 initiative that was introduced in 2009.
With much of the population living in rural areas and with
limited education, there has been a health knowledge gap in China, especially
around hygiene and disease prevention. The country is now making significant
progress in reducing the burden of many diseases and disabilities, but there
has been growth in non-communicable diseases (stroke, heart disease, lung
Risk of injury is also alarmingly high, serving as the
fifth leading cause of death in the nation (500,000 deaths per year). More
studies are needed to help policymakers develop strategies to prevent, control
and reduce injuries. China’s rapid economic development in recent decades may
have been a double-edged sword in this area, providing education and
legislation that reduces the burden of injury while also increasing the
industrialization and motorization that could be driving it.
In 2016, China announced the new and improved Healthy China
2030 initiative, which was designed with the UN’s sustainable development goals
in mind. And, this year, the State Council put out 15 specific recommended
actions focusing on public health and prevention:
- health knowledge extension
- healthy eating
- increasing physical activities
- stronger tobacco control
- promoting mental health
- improving environmental conditions
- protecting maternal and infant health
- promoting health of school attendants
- ensuring occupational health
- promoting health of the elderly
- preventing cardiovascular diseases
- preventing cancer diseases
- preventing chronic respiratory system diseases
- preventing diabetes diseases
- preventing endemic and infectious diseases
Comprehensive health system reform has been a major
component of Healthy China, but it is really a whole society effort aimed at
addressing larger systems and standards to improve the health and wellbeing of
everyone across the nation. As we transition into 2020, expect to see China
putting many of its new goals into action.
Read the special issue of The Lancet Public Health here.