The Healthcare System in China


SEATTLE, Washington — Despite having one of the largest economies and militaries in the world, China is still considered to be a developing country. The gross national income still falls below the threshold of the $12,055 needed to be considered a developed country. While it’s not uncommon for developing countries to struggle to maintain a stable infrastructure, China still excels in the standards in the developed world where healthcare is concerned. As of 2011, China’s healthcare system covered more than 95% of the population. China implements its healthcare system through two primary healthcare initiatives: the National Health Commission and the Family Planning Commission.

Financing Healthcare

As of 2018, China spent about 6.6% of its GDP on healthcare. The Government financed 28% of this, and insurance and donations covered 44%. There are three types of public health insurance: employment payroll taxes that provide urban employment-based insurance, voluntary urban residential insurance and insurance specific to rural residents. The government provides the latter two. As of 2016, the State Council, the highest order of the Chinese government’s executive sector, announced its plans to merge the last two types.

Trends In Healthcare

Over the past 60 years, the government’s continued efforts to make healthcare accessible has shifted trends within the demographic. High birth rates, high death rates and an abundance of infectious diseases have been replaced with low birth rates, low death rates and the prevalence of chronic diseases. Chronic diseases cause 85% of all deaths in China, holding 70% of the “disease burden.” This is a measure of the impact of disease based on cost, rate of death and rate of infection.

The decreased birth rate can be attributed to the One Child Policy, implemented by the Chinese Communist Party in 1980. This stemmed from the fear that overpopulation would be a massive drain on already scarce resources. Though repealed in 2015, the fertility rates have not yet recovered to what they were before the One-Child Policy.

Healthcare Reform

Before 1949, during the first year of an infant’s life, the mortality rate was 20%. This rate grew to somewhere between 30-40% for the first five years of life. Tuberculosis, typhus and cholera were among the infectious diseases spreading through China at the time. Upon ascending to power, the Chinese Communist Party tried to remedy the failing healthcare system. However, substantial results would not be observable until 1965. Since then, life expectancy increased from 40 years to 70 years. The infant mortality rate is now one of the lowest in the world. As well, infectious diseases and drug addiction are now virtually nonexistent in China.

China’s healthcare system, if measured by accessibility and life expectancy, has been steadily improving since the Cultural Revolution. With China rising up as a powerhouse in the world, the further improvement of its infrastructure bodes well for its population. The nation has begun to graduate into “developed” standing, joining other prominent, wealthy world powers.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr


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