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Lancet Series Examines Health System Reform in China

Seven papers include articles on Chinese health inequities, increase in chronic diseases

MONDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- China faces a number of health challenges, including considerable health-related disparities and a shift in burden from infectious diseases to chronic diseases, according to two papers published as part of a series on Chinese health reform published online Oct. 20 in The Lancet.

In the first paper, Shenglan Tang, Ph.D., of the World Health Organization Beijing Office, and colleagues point to sizeable differences in life expectancy between poor and wealthy provinces, which are much greater than such gaps seen in the United States and the United Kingdom. Infant mortality rates are almost five times higher in the poorest rural counties than the wealthiest counties, they report. Particularly important issues the nation must resolve include inequities in social health determinants, such as varying access to clean drinking water, and public dissatisfaction with the fairness and trustworthiness of the health care system, the report indicates.

In the second paper, Gonghuan Yang, M.D., of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing and colleagues write that deaths from cerebro-cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer rose from 41.7 percent of all deaths in 1973 to 74.1 percent in 2005. China has the largest group of citizens with hypertension in the world (177 million) and is home to one-third of the world's smokers (303 million adults), they note.

"Prevention and control of chronic diseases is a large and complex task, but no more so than many of the challenges that have confronted China in its long history, and especially in its last 50 years. China can build on its health, economic, educational and development successes and address the challenge of chronic diseases and their risk factors. In so doing, it might provide insights and approaches for other nations to adopt in improving the health of their populations," Yang and colleagues conclude.

Abstract - Tang
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Abstract - Yang
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