Healthcare advances seen nationwide

Updated: Oct 19, 2020 China Daily Print
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Better medical facilities, staff bringing about moderately prosperous society

Zhang Jinping, president of a township health center in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, says basic health services offered to locals have improved over the past few years.

In September last year, Zhang and her colleagues began working at a new three-story building more than three times bigger than the previous one-story health center. With new medical equipment being added and new staff being recruited, doctors and nurses at the center in Chahantuohai, Tacheng, can provide better services, Zhang said.

"Now we are able to provide all basic public health services required by the government, including vaccinations, maternal healthcare as well as the management of chronic and infectious diseases," she said. "We are planning to build a surgical department so patients in the township will not have to travel to faraway cities for minor surgery."

Government subsidies have enabled the health center to give locals free checkups since 2016. This year, 1,800 people, more than half Chahantuohai's population, have had basic checkups, including lung X-rays and cardiograms, Zhang said.

In recent years, health authorities across China, from more populous eastern and central regions to more remote areas such as Tacheng, have intensified efforts to provide universal healthcare as part of the drive to build xiaokang-a moderately prosperous society in all aspects-by the year-end target set by the top leadership.

In Hunan province, for instance, authorities have taken various measures to encourage the flow of quality medical resources from big cities to counties, and every county in the province now has at least one secondary-level public hospital. That means more than 90 percent of patients in counties can be treated close to home.

The province has also ramped up investment in the building of rural healthcare centers in recent years, allowing villagers to receive services locally. Every village in the province now has at least one health center, and more than 80 percent of residents are within 15 minutes of the nearest medical facility.

President Xi Jinping has highlighted the importance of improving people's health in achieving xiaokang, and on multiple occasions has called for people's health to be the priority in overall development.

Although China has made decisive progress in building a xiaokang society, Xi told a meeting in Beijing in April last year that more effort was needed to make up for shortfalls. He urged increased investment in areas such as compulsory education, basic healthcare and housing to address people's concerns.

After decades of effort, the general health of Chinese people has improved significantly.

Average life expectancy rose to 77.3 years last year, the National Health Commission said, double that of seven decades ago, when the People's Republic of China had just been founded. Medical resources have also increased significantly, with the number of beds in medical and health institutions reaching 8.8 million by the end of last year-2.8 times as many as 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, 1.35 billion people-more than 95 percent of the country's population-were covered by national basic healthcare insurance by the end of last year, more than six times as many as in 2007, thus greatly reducing the financial burden faced by patients.

Fang Pengqian, director of the Academy of Health Policy and Management at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei province, said that despite progress, persistent effort is still needed to ensure all people living in poverty have access to basic healthcare services, a key element of achieving xiaokang.

Wu Hao, director of the Fangzhuang Community Health Center in Beijing, said basic grassroots healthcare facilities, such as health centers in villages and urban communities, should play a more important role in the universal provision of basic health services.

"More effort is needed to empower grassroots healthcare facilities and reduce the gap with big hospitals, including improving the career prospects of practitioners at such facilities to attract sufficient qualified talent," Wu said.

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