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The Ministry of Health, together with its counterparts in the provincial health bureaus, oversees the health needs of the Chinese population. An emphasis on public health and preventative treatment characterized health policy since the early 1950s. At that time, the party started the Patriotic Health Campaign, which was aimed at improving sanitation and hygiene, as well as attacking several diseases. This has shown major results as diseases like cholera, typhoid, and scarlet fever were nearly eradicated. 1

The end of the famed "barefoot doctor" system based in the people's communes and the increasing privatization of medicine, often poorly regulated, have made corruption and inefficiency in the delivery of health services serious problems. Mistaken political policies led to the starvation of millions during the Great Leap Forward (An economic and social plan used from 1958 to 1961 which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform mainland China from a primarily agrarian economy dominated by peasant farmers into a modern, agriculturalized and industrialized communist society). Epidemic disease rebounded during the dislocations of the Cultural Revolution, (a struggle for power within the Communist Party of China that manifested into wide-scale social, political, and economic violence and chaos, which grew to include large sections of Chinese society and eventually brought the entire country to the brink of civil war) which seriously harmed public health in China. The effective public health work in controlling epidemic disease during the early years of the Peoples Republic of China and, after reform began in 1978, the dramatic improvements in nutrition greatly improved the health and life expectancy of the Chinese people. By 2000, when the World Health Organization made a large study of public health systems throughout the world, they found that China's health care system before 1980 performed far better than countries at a comparable level of development, since 1980 China ranks much lower than comparable countries.3

Despite significant improvements in health and the introduction of western style medical facilities, China has several emerging public health problems, which include respiratory problems as a result of widespread air pollution and millions of cigarette smokers, a progressing HIV-AIDS epidemic, and an increase in obesity among urban youths. Estimates of excess deaths in China from environmental pollution (apart from smoking) are placed at 760,000 people per annum from air and water pollution (including indoor air pollution). China's large population and close living quarters has led to some serious disease outbreaks in recent years, such as the 2003 outbreak of SARS (a pneumonia-like disease) which has since been largely contained. 1


Unless otherwise noted content is from THE HANDBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION MEDICINE by Laurie C. Miller. Copyright 2004 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Used by Permission.

1 People's Republic of China, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Republic_of_China

3 Public health in the People's Republic of China, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_health_in_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China


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