Improving Healthcare in Rural China
Peking University, Dec. 7, 2010: Chronic diseases, also known as non-communicable diseases, or NCDs, have drawn global attention as they contribute to 60 percent of all deaths in the world. China, the largest developing nation, also faces huge challenges from NCDs, especially in its vast rural areas. A healthcare project jointly launched by Peking University and foreign partners aims to find ways to deal with the problem.
China has witnessed dramatic social and economic changes over the last few decades. Its rapid economic development has not only brought increased wealth to Chinese farmers, but also chronic diseases, which were once commonly found in cities.
Qiu Zhonghua, a barefoot doctor in northeast China's Liaoning province, says his village has seen an increased number of deaths related to non-communicable diseases, which he has difficulty treating.
"There are a total of 1,600 residents in my village. About 50 people have died from brain strokes or heart attacks last year. We have more patients with high blood pressure and diabetes than before. We really wanted to help them and did what we could, but the results were not so marked," said Qiu.
But now thousands of village doctors facing the same difficulties as Qiu's are expected to receive assistance from a healthcare project to improve the prevention and management of chronic diseases in rural China.
LifeSeeds, a pilot project jointly launched by Peking University Clinical Research Institute and the George Institute of Global Health on Monday, seeks to improve the health of rural residents in 120 villages in Liaoning, Hebei, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Bruce Neal, Senior Director of Sydney-based George Institute for Global Health, says he hopes their experiences in Australia and other developing countries will be suitable for rural China and other resource-poor areas.
"Blood pressure is a major cause of death in China, and rather a few people get adequate treatment. We've actually done a similar study in India and shown that using a very simple organism it's possible to train the village doctors to pick the people up and get them on treatment," said Bruce.
The project also aims to reduce the amount of salt content in a typical Chinese diet to decrease the risk of stroke.
"We know in China, particularly in rural north areas, salt consumption is very high, and this is the main cause of high blood pressure and stroke. What we want to do is make people aware of the problem and also provide them with access to salt substitutes," said Bruce.
Rural China is home to 700-million people and a quickly rising number of chronic diseases. The problem is especially severe in areas where access to basic health services is difficult.
Zhang Jianxin, an official with the Disease Control and Prevention Center in Hebei Province, says the project's launch is timely and essential for rural people.
"The project provides simple and economical measures for doctors at the grassroots level to identify the potentially dangerous factors for cardiovascular diseases. It is suited to the situation of China's vast rural areas, especially Hebei, a province with underdeveloped economies and few fully educated doctors," said Zhang.
Zhang said the nationwide application of the project, having been proved effective and feasible in the five pilot provinces, is sure to benefit China's rural residents.
Edited by: Jacques