Posts tagged ‘health’


Improving health care: Congratulations! Inoculations! | The Economist

FANS of the China model frequently say that, for all the disadvantages of a one-party state, there are also benefits. Enforcing basic health care is one—and by no means a small one. Last year China’s mortality rate for children under five years old was just one-fifth the rate it was in 1991, down from 61 deaths per 1,000 live births to 12. The maternal mortality rate has also dropped substantially—by 71%—since 1991. In 1992, one in ten Chinese children under five contracted hepatitis B. Today fewer than one in 100 of them carry the disease.

China’s advances have not gone unnoticed. Last month a group of four international bodies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank, said China was one of ten countries to have made exceptional progress in reducing infant and maternal mortality (see chart). Not all of the ten—which included Egypt, Peru, Bangladesh and Vietnam—are one-party states.

China’s improvement lies in two basic, connected areas: better care at birth and countrywide immunisation. Since 2000 the government has offered subsidies to mothers who give birth in hospitals, thereby reducing health dangers from complications—especially the risk of neonatal tetanus. The scheme also brought hard-to-reach people and groups into contact with the health-care system.

From 2001 to 2007, the share of births that took place in hospitals rose by 46%, making it easier to give a hepatitis B vaccine immediately. China now has one of the highest usage rates of the birth dose of the vaccine in the world: 96% of Chinese babies receive it on their first day of life. In 2012 the WHO commended China for a “remarkable” public-health achievement. That year it declared China free of maternal and neonatal tetanus.

Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, this month said that China’s regulatory system for vaccines had passed the WHO’s evaluation with outstanding results. Dr Chan says she has “full confidence” in the safety of vaccines made in China. Last year the WHO approved one for the first time for use by UNICEF. (That has not dispelled suspicions within China itself, however, about the safety of Chinese vaccines.) China and the WHO claim that about 95% of children are vaccinated for measles, rubella and polio. In 2008 the government added eight new vaccines, including hepatitis A and meningitis, to its national programme. All are administered to children free of charge. Just as important has been the mobilisation of a network of health-care workers, at provincial, county and township levels.

via Improving health care: Congratulations! Inoculations! | The Economist.


China Seeks Shorter, ‘More Portly’ Troops With Brainpower – Bloomberg

China’s military has relaxed its height, eyesight and weight requirements for soldiers in an effort to attract more educated personnel, the state-owned China Daily newspaper said today.

Male recruits can now be 1.6 meters tall (5 foot 2 inches), down from 1.62 meters, while the minimum height for women will reduced by the same margin to 1.58 meters, the paper said, citing the Ministry of Defense’s recruitment office. The upper weight limit for male enlistees was also relaxed to “allow more portly young men” into the military, it said.

Eyesight standards were also lowered because nearly 70 percent of high school and university students in China are short-sighted, it said. Mental illnesses including schizophrenia, dissociative disorder, depression and bipolar disorder has also been removed from a list of conditions barring candidates from enlisting, according to the paper.

The looser requirements come as President Xi Jinping tries to hone the world’s largest army by headcount into a professional fighting force capable of winning wars. Efforts by China’s military to attract better-educated recruits to match its modern weaponry has been hampered by a decline in the health of candidates. According to Beijing’s army recruitment office, some 60 percent of college students fail the physical fitness examination, with most graduates being overweight, the China Daily reported in August.

via China Seeks Shorter, ‘More Portly’ Troops With Brainpower – Bloomberg.


Malnutrition: The hungry and forgotten | The Economist

THE propaganda message, scrawled in white paint on the side of a wood-frame house, could hardly be more blunt: “Cure stupidity, cure poverty”. The cure for both, in one of China’s poorest counties, seems to be a daily nutritional supplement for children. At a pre-school centre in Songjia, as in more than 600 other poor villages across China, children aged three to six gather to get the stuff with their lunch. If China is to narrow its urban-rural divide, thousands more villages will need to do this much, or more. Widespread malnutrition still threatens to hold back a generation of rural Chinese.

China used to have more undernourished people than anywhere in the world except India: about 300m, or 30% of the population in 1980. Economic growth has pulled half of them out of poverty and hunger. But that still leaves about 150m, mainly in the countryside. Out of 88m children aged six to 15 in the poorest rural areas, around a third suffer from anaemia because of a lack of iron, according to survey data. Iron deficiency can stunt brain development, meaning many of these children will grow up ill-equipped to better their lot. “They are far behind compared with urban kids,” says Lu Mai, secretary-general of China Development Research Foundation (CDRF), a government-run charity. Mr Lu and other experts have been prodding the government to do more. The state subsidises school lunches for 23m children in the 680 poorest counties, as well as nutritional supplements for hundreds of thousands of babies. It is not enough.

Even where children get the calories they need—as most do in rural China—they are not being fed the right things. In one study of 1,800 infants in rural Shaanxi province in China’s north-west, 49% were anaemic and 40% were significantly hampered in developing either cognitive or motor skills. Fewer than one in ten were stunted or wasting, meaning that in most cases the problem was not lack of calories, but lack of nutrients.

China shares this affliction with much of the developing world. But it has the resources to respond. Parents have the means to feed their babies properly. And with a relatively modest investment, the government could do a better job of improving childhood nutrition. The difficulties lie in educating parents—and officials.

Babies are probably 50% malnourished” in poor rural areas, says Scott Rozelle, co-director of the Rural Education Action Programme (REAP), a research outfit at Stanford University which has done extensive tests on anaemia in rural China. “But almost no mums are malnourished.” Mr Rozelle says that in one of his surveys rural mothers showed a better understanding of how to feed pigs than babies: 71% said pigs need micronutrients, whereas only 20% said babies need them.

Mr Lu’s charity and REAP argue that a nutritional supplement called ying yang bao should be available to rural mothers. A powdery concoction of soyabeans, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamins, it is supposed to be sprinkled on food once a day. Each packet costs less than one yuan (16 cents) to produce and one yuan to distribute, paid by the government.

Trials conducted since 2006 have consistently shown that ying yang bao reduces anaemia and improves growth and development in infants and toddlers. But persuading parents of this (or grandparents, if the parents are off working in cities) has not been easy. About half give up feeding it to their children. “Poor people feel very suspicious”, Mr Lu says. They wonder if free supplements are unsafe, or fake. “Then they worry will we charge later?”

This may be the legacy in rural China of years of seeing government invest little—and often charge a lot—for basic services. Moreover, at the local level the workers who are meant to help mothers may well be family-planning officials responsible for controlling population, a role that hardly inspires trust.

At higher levels of government, too, officials need a lot of persuading that nutrition programmes are not a waste of public money. In 2011 China began instituting a programme similar to America’s federal school-lunch programme for the poor, at a cost of 16 billion yuan ($2.6 billion) a year. But one assessment suggests that perhaps half the schools are providing substandard, uncooked meals, partly because some local governments refuse to foot the bill for kitchens and cooks.

via Malnutrition: The hungry and forgotten | The Economist.


In China, Another Argument for Peeing in Public – China Real Time Report – WSJ

While peeing in public may be frowned upon in many places, mainlanders apparently take a slightly more tolerant attitude to the practice. In Hong Kong, this cultural clash has led to a number of altercations after mainland parents let their children relieve themselves in the territory’s streets.

But at times, evacuating one’s bladder in public apparently can have its upside.

According to local media in the southwestern city of Chengdu (in Chinese), there is at least one young man who now believes that when the call of nature is heard, just go with the flow.

Xu Yuanguang was riding home from work on his motorcycle last week, the Chengdu Business News reports (in Chinese), when he felt a sudden urge. The 29-year-old shop employee pulled off the road on the outskirts of Chengdu and took  aim at a nearby pile of dirt.

After completing his task, he spotted a colorful object that had been uncovered by the sudden flow. Intrigued, he dug it out, only to find a terracotta figurine.

He and co-worker Yi Zhimin – who had been riding with him — reported the find to the local Bureau of Cultural Relics.

via In China, Another Argument for Peeing in Public – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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How Do You Say ‘Gym Rat’ in Chinese? – Businessweek

Yang Lei’s tight black T-shirt shows off his admirably bulging biceps. The chiseled 29-year-old is the head personal trainer at the Beijing Hujialou branch of Impulse Fitness, one of China’s top three fitness chains. A floor of weight machines and a lap pool—the latter surrounded by white marble columns—occupy the basement level of an upscale new residential complex. In recent years, as Chinese fitness chains have sought ways to transform working out from a niche interest to a mainstream pursuit in the world’s most populous country, it’s become increasingly common for gym franchises to strike deals with residential developers. “More people are starting to put health on their list of top priorities,” says Yang.

Personal trainer assisting and correcting a cl...

Personal trainer assisting and correcting a client during a fitball stretching exercise Category:Fitness Category:Fitness_training Category:Personal_training (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Yang was born in 1984, commercial gyms were all but unheard of in China. The first domestic and international fitness chains began to make slow inroads in the 1990s. By the time Yang graduated from high school in the early 2000s, it seemed a logical choice to enroll at Tianjin Physical Education University to study for a new profession in China: becoming a full-time personal trainer. In wealthy cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, it’s now a fairly lucrative gig. Trainers typically charge between $35 and $200 an hour—fees that they split with club management. Of course, hustling also is part of the job. As Yang puts it, “A coach is not only a coach, but a salesperson.”

Finding clients has become much easier in China’s leading metropolises as more young professionals hit the gym. Lawrence Fang, a 31-year-old journalist in Beijing, goes to the gym three times a week, alternating yoga and weightlifting, and says his aims are “health and trying to look good.” He Ping, a 35-year-old engineer, works out with a personal trainer in Beijing for 250 renminbi ($40) an hour because “a good instructor will help me form good habits.” And a petite 32-year-old reporter, who declined to give her name, says she started hitting the gym regularly a few years ago after her foreign boyfriend teased her for “only getting exercise in bed.” All three said the most important factor in choosing a gym was convenience—ideally a location next to their home or office.

via How Do You Say ‘Gym Rat’ in Chinese? – Businessweek.


House-for-pension stirs Chinese debate on elder care

This post and another on China‘s labour force posted today illustrate how fast China is catching up with developed nations, not always for the better.

China Daily: “For 71-year-old Li Yuzhen, a life taking care of a sick husband and a mentally-disabled son in their two-bedroom apartment in the East China city of Hefei has not been easy.

The family of three nets a monthly income of 3,000 yuan ($487), but spends one third of it on medicine. They barely make ends meet with the rest of the money.

Li said they could not afford a nursing home, and she has to stay at home to look after her son, a man in his 40s but still unmarried due to his condition.

In an effort to explore elder care solutions for China’s rapidly aging society, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, vowed last week to complete a social care network for people over age 60 by 2020, when the age group is expected to reach 243 million. This group’s population had already reached 194 million by the end of 2012, giving China the largest senior population on earth.

One solution proposed is the house-for-pension program.

“The plan allows you to deed your house to an insurance company or bank, which will determine the value of your house and your life expectancy, and then grant you a certain amount every month,” said Meng Xiaosu, former CEO of Happy Life Insurance Co, Ltd.

“You can still live in your house, but the company or the bank has ownership,” Meng said.

The program, while only a suggestion, has drawn widespread concern and met with mixed views.

Zhan Chengfu, director of the division on social welfare and charity of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said the program benefits both the elderly and insurance companies and banks as it can ease elderly care fund shortages, revitalize housing resources and expand the insurance business.

According to a joint study by the Bank of China (BOC) and Deutsche Bank last year, the aging population will leave China with a shortfall of 18.3 trillion yuan in pension funds by 2013 and create a heavy fiscal burden for the country.

Zheng Bingwen, a social security researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, likened China’s pension system to a pyramid with the ground level being the basic pension pool, the middle level being companies’ supplementary pensions, and the top level being individuals’ commercial insurance. But the proportion of the total pension funds to gross domestic output is small compared to other BRICS nations.

“We need different channels to supplement funds shortage, and house-for-pension is likely to be a plausible way for elder care,” Zhang said.

However, the proposal stirred a heated public debate, especially among people whose parents have property and fear losing the inheritance.

via House-for-pension stirs debate on elder care[1]|

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A Premium Milk Brand for India’s Elite

WSJ: “India’s rich and elite like their premium services, from hopping on private jets to receiving Dior goods at their doorstep. But the simple things apply, too.

A premium milk labeled Pride of Cows counts among its consumers the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s family and Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan, according to Parag Milk Foods Private Ltd.

Parag Milk Foods, the founder of Gowardhan dairies, launched the Pride of Cows milk in July 2011, initially marketing it as a “by invitation or reference only product” to select celebrities and industrialists.

According to a 2011 survey by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, 70% of the milk consumed in the country is adulterated.

Parag Milk Foods Chairman Devendra Shah says the Pride of Cows brand functions by the rule that “happy cows give better milk.” At its Bhagyalaxmi Dairy farm in Pune, around 3,500 Holstien Friesan cows are pampered with music, showers and specially designed nutritional meals, Mr. Shah says. “The result is milk full of love and high nutritional values.”

Parag Milk says it breeds its cows with imported bull semen from North America. Feed is tailor-made for cows of different ages, and the menu is changed regularly to include fresh seasonal crops and specials.

“This way we have complete control over the breed, feed and health of our cows, which in turn leads to complete control over the quality of milk,” said Mr. Shah.

“We have implemented ‘cow comfort’ technology, wherein our cows have soft rubber mats to lie on, streaming music, air-coolers to keep them cool, automated scrubbers to clean them and regular preventive healthcare checks,” added Edmund Piper, a U.K. national who was hired as the farm’s manager four years ago.

Parag Milk Foods signed up celebrities like writer Shobha De as Pride of Cows brand ambassadors, while it can count industrialist Raj Kundra, co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals cricket team, as a fan.

“Being a British-born Indian, I’ve always missed the milk from the UK. I can’t tell you how happy I was to sample this milk – it’s world class. I can finally start drinking milk and enjoying my cereal,” says an endorsement by Mr. Kundra on the Pride of Cows website.

Pride of Cows isn’t available in shops; it’s only delivered – in insulated boxes with ice bags — on subscription. It costs 75 rupees ($1.35) a liter, making it an expensive alternative to other milk, which generally costs around 35 rupees to 50 rupees in the markets. Nestlé milk is among the other brands available in India, costing 62 rupees a liter.”

via A Premium Milk Brand for India’s Elite – India Real Time – WSJ.

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* China’s new mental health law to make it harder for authorities to silence petitioners

SCMP: “The director of Xinjiang‘s largest mental health institution has welcomed a new law, which went into effect on Wednesday, banning involuntary inpatient treatment for many people deemed mentally ill.


“Seventy to 80 per cent of the patients have been forcibly admitted to the hospital,” said Xu Xiangdong, director of the Fourth People’s Hospital in the regional capital Urumqi, the Yaxin online news portal reported on Monday.

“Because of this increased consideration for patients’ rights, [the figures] will change fundamentally,” he said, adding that it would put an end to frequent episodes of people being wrongfully declared mentally ill.

The new law, which has been debated for a quarter of a century, is meant to crack down on local authorities aiming to silence petitioners and troublemakers by arbitrarily declaring them mentally ill and locking them up in mental health wards.

Under the law, patients must first give their consent to being hospitalised, except in cases in which they could harm themselves or others.

If patients are still forcibly confined, they or their guardians have the right to seek a second opinion. Forced hospitalisations for reasons other than severe mental illness are banned.

Last week about 200 health practitioners from the region were sent to Xu’s hospital to be trained in the new provisions on patients’ rights stipulated by the new law, the Xinjiang Daily reported.

Two million people in Xinjiang live with mental disabilities, Xu estimated, amounting to more than 9 per cent of the population in the economic backwater of China’s remote northwest.

That compares with almost 8 per cent of China’s population diagnosed with some form of mental illness, according to the Ministry of Health in 2011. A largescale 2009 study estimated a much higher national average at 17.5 per cent.

In Xinjiang, authorities have not been able to provide adquate resources to deal with the increasing number of people living with mental disorders. Xu told the Yaxin portal in 2011 that the number of mentally ill patients had increased by 20 to 30 per cent annually over the last years.

In Monday’s report, he said less than 5 per cent of the two million mentally ill could receive treatment because of a lack of resources and trained staff.

Two years earlier, the regional government had reported plans to build 15 new mental hospitals and to expand current ones. Until now, only one additional hospital in Kashgar has been completed, the Yaxin report said.

In March, a gruesome murder of a seven-year-old Uygur boy by a Chinese man has caused tensions among ethnic communities in the Turpan prefecture east of Urumqi. The man had been declared mentally ill to prevent ethnic revenge attacks, locals told Radio Free Asia.”

via China’s new mental health law to make it harder for authorities to silence petitioners | South China Morning Post.


* The Word From Beijing: Thank You for Not Smoking

WSJ: “China’s government has a New Year’s resolution: to stamp out smoking.

Leaders aim to reduce smokers to 25% of the population by 2015, down from 28% in 2010, according to a smoking-cessation plan the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published recently. The work of the ministries of health, finance and foreign affairs, as well as the administrations of tobacco, safety, customs, industry and commerce, it plots moves to ban smoking in public places and end ads and sponsorships by tobacco companies.

China is home to 300 million smokers, a quarter of the world total, and they burn up a third of the world’s cigarettes, according to a study from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

The stub-smoking initiative comes weeks after World Health Organization officials urged China’s government to reduce smoking rates by at least 30% by 2025 through programs teaching that habits such as tobacco use and excessive salt intake can lead to chronic diseases and early death.

Smoking-related sicknesses kill more than one million Chinese citizens each year, according to the WHO, and smoking contributes to the country’s high rates of chronic disease—which accounts for 80% of deaths and 70% of health expenditure.

Critics of China’s tobacco plan say enforcement details are lacking. A smoking ban in public places such as hotels and restaurants, announced in 2011, has been only loosely applied.

“Apart from the legal codes legislated by various local governments on banning smoking and installing ‘no smoking’ signs in public places, there are hardly any specific rules to enforce the ban,” an editorial in the state-owned China Daily said, adding, “Besides, very few smokers have received due punishment violating the ban.” The editorial also notes that cigarette packages lack graphic health warnings—which in other parts of the world can include gruesome images.

Beijing has said long said it is determined to tackle the country’s smoking problem, but so far has had little success. Cigarettes remain cheap—available for less than $1 for a pack, according to the WHO, which recommended last year that China triple its tobacco tax to 70% to discourage young would-be smokers from buying.”

via The Word From Beijing: Thank You for Not Smoking – China Real Time Report – WSJ.


* Healthcare system to get 400b yuan injection

Chronic Disease

Chronic Disease (Photo credit: tamahaji)

China Daily: “Increase in cases of chronic diseases can mean opportunities for medical firms

Deng Jianping currently spends around 500 yuan ($79) a month on medicine for blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

The 68-year-old Beijinger said his wife has more chronic diseases and her medication costs even more, while his two sons, 42 and 38, also need to take medicine every day for hypertension and heart illness.

Wang and his family are among the more than 260 million Chinese people, around a quarter of the nation’s population, who have been diagnosed with chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.

The Ministry of Health said that around 10 million people in China have contracted chronic diseases every year since 2002.

“Prevention and control of chronic diseases will be one of the seven top tasks of China’s medical care reform by 2020,” said Health Minister Chen Zhu.

The central government will invest a total of 400 billion yuan by 2020 in the seven key projects, which also involve improvements to the grassroots healthcare system, psychological disease prevention, the construction of a digital public health information network, medical device innovation, the development of traditional Chinese medicine, and the training of general practitioners.

According to the ministry, 85 percent of deaths in China are caused by chronic diseases, with expenditure on the treatment of these accounting for 69 percent of China’s total healthcare costs last year.

Foreign pharmaceutical companies have an advantage in this sector, according to Song Yingtong, a senior analyst at Beijing Chnmed Consulting Co Ltd, a domestic pharmaceutical consulting firm.

“They have accumulated rich experience in chronic disease treatment in developed markets,” he said.”

via Healthcare system to get 400b yuan injection |Hot Issues |

Hot on the announcement of expanded care is news of cash injection to make it real.  President Obama “eat your heart out.”

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