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Healthy China initiative emphasizes prevention

Posted on December 12th, 2019 by in Pharma R&D

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 cancer, etc.).

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.

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