Development of China's Public Health as an Essential Element of Human Rights

The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China published a white paper titled "Development of China's Public Health as an Essential Element of Human Rights" on Sept. 29.

China SCIOUpdated: September 30, 2017

III. Public Health Service Capability Improving Steadily

The Chinese government gives priority to prevention while combining prevention with treatment, and makes great efforts to ensure the people's equal access to public health services. It devotes great efforts to preventing and controlling epidemic, chronic and endemic diseases, strengthening the quick response capacity on public health emergencies, and developing an increasingly equal and universal basic public health service system.

The coverage of basic public health services has been further expanded. The government has extended free vaccinations from children only to adults. By the end of 2015 the vaccination rate of every town or township was at least 90 percent and the incidence of and mortality from diseases that can be prevented by programmed vaccines had fallen to the lowest level ever. From 2010 to 2017, the state subsidy for basic public health services has increased from RMB15 to RMB50 per person, and the services have also expanded from 41 in nine categories to 47 in 12 categories. The 12 categories span a person's life circle, including citizens' health archives, health education, vaccination, children's health management, pregnancy and maternity health management, elderly people's health management, health management of chronically ill patients, management of patients with severe mental disorders, health management of tuberculosis patients, TCM health management, reporting and handling of epidemic diseases and public health emergencies, and assisting management and supervision on health and family planning. By the end of 2016, the government had set up digital health archives for 76.9 percent of Chinese citizens, covering 90.23 million hypertension patients and 27.81 million diabetes sufferers. At the same time, 91.6 percent of pregnant and lying-in women and 91.1 percent of children under the age of three were brought under systematic management.

The scope of beneficiaries of the basic public health services has expanded steadily. By 2012, China had eliminated tetanus among all newborn babies. In 2014 through injection of hepatitis B vaccine to newborn babies, the prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen in children under five years of age decreased from 9.67 percent in 1992 to 0.32 percent in 2014, achieving the WHO's goal of reducing that figure to below 1 percent three years ahead of schedule. An increasing number of the floating population now have better access to basic public health services. Epidemic diseases have been effectively prevented and controlled among them, and more than 90 percent of their children have received vaccinations. Aiming at serious diseases, major risk factors affecting health and key groups, the state has formulated and implemented major public health service projects that cover nearly 200 million people, such as hepatitis B vaccination for people under 15 years of age who missed the vaccination earlier, nutrition improvement for children in impoverished areas, facilitating rural pregnant women's delivery in hospital, screening for cervical and breast cancers among women in rural areas, and construction of hygienic toilet in rural areas. In 2009 the government launched the Regaining Eyesight Program for a Million Impoverished Cataract Patients, and had subsidized surgery for more than 1.75 million cataract patients by the end of 2013.

The ability to control epidemic diseases has continuously improved.The Chinese government has established the world's largest online direct reporting system for notifiable epidemic diseases and public health emergencies. Reported incidence of epidemic diseases has dropped by 19.4 percent. The early detection and early warning capacities have been further improved. The epidemic disease reporting system covers 71,000 medical institutions, with 160,000 users and nine million annual individual reports. In 2016, the reported incidence and death rate of epidemic diseases in categories A and B was controlled below 215.7/100,000 and 1.31/100,000, respectively. The state has set up a laboratory network comprised of disease control and prevention institutions at national, provincial, city and county levels. The influenza, poliomyelitis, measles and meningitis B labs of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention have become WHO reference labs. On the whole, the epidemics are under control and there has been no widespread epidemic in China. The spread of HIV remains at a low level, and its rapid growth in certain areas has been checked. The efforts to prevent and treat tuberculosis have achieved good results, with a cure rate of over 90 percent. In 2016, the reported incidence of tuberculosis had decreased by 12.6 percent compared to 2011, and the mortality rate from tuberculosis had dropped to 2.3 per 100,000 patients, reaching the level of developed countries. In the same year, there were 3,189 malaria cases reported nationwide, with only three domestically infected. This was much lower than the 4,262 cases in 2010. The disease has now been eradicated in over 80 percent counties that once had a widespread malaria problem. The prevention and treatment of major parasitic diseases have achieved solid results. By the end of 2016, the transmission of schistosomiasis was brought under control in all the 453 counties where it once had been widespread.

The effects of China's practice in preventing and controlling chronic diseases have remarkably improved. China has set up a monitoring network for chronic diseases and risk factors. As a basic public health service, the health management of the aged and hypertension or diabetes patients is provided free to the public. The state runs many services, like screening for cerebral apoplexy and cardiovascular disease, comprehensive oral disease intervention, and early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. By the end of 2016, the service of screening for and intervention of cerebral apoplexy had been provided to more than 6.1 million people, 820,000 of whom were found to be at high risk, and 952,000 follow-up interventions were conducted. Early screening and comprehensive intervention of cardiovascular disease had been provided to 3.389 million people, 776,000 of whom were found to be at high risk, and 524,000 follow-up interventions were conducted. Comprehensive oral disease intervention had provided free oral examination to 100 million children. A total of 5.168 million children received free dental sealants treatment and 2.229 million children received free local fluoride varnish treatment. The early diagnosis and treatment of cancer service had been provided to 2.14 million high-risk people. Some 55,000 cancer patients were diagnosed through this service, and the overall early diagnosis rate reached 80 percent or above.

The spread of endemic diseases is under effective control. By the end of 2015, 90.8 percent of counties whose water sources contained excess iodine had reached the benchmark that 90 percent of salt consumed was iodine-free, and 94.2 percent of the nation's counties had eradicated iodine deficiency, ranking among the top of all 128 countries and regions officially using iodized salt. Kaschin-Beck disease has been eradicated in 95.4 percent of villages where it was once widespread, and Keshan disease has been put under control in 94.2 percent of the counties where it was once prevalent. In the counties that suffered from endemic fluorosis caused by coal burning, 98.4 percent of coal stoves have been transformed, and in the areas suffering from drinking water-caused endemic fluorosis, 93.6 percent of the rural population now have access to de-fluoridated drinking water. Areas suffering from arsenic poisoning through coal burning have had their stoves transformed, and all people in water-related arsenic poisoning areas now have access to safe drinking water.

Mental health services have been improved constantly. The state issued the Mental Health Law of the People's Republic of China, putting the related work within the legal framework. At the end of 2015, China had 2,936 mental health institutions with 433,000 beds - increases of 77.9 percent and 89.9 percent, respectively compared with 2010. There were 27,700 practicing (assistant) psychiatrists nationwide, an increase of 20.2 percent over the 23,100 at the end of 2012. Severe mental disorders have been included as serious diseases under the new type of rural cooperative medical care and basic medical insurance for non-working urban residents. The central government has provided subsidies to local hospitals to help with the management of and treatment for severe mental disorders. Special aid and treatment policies have been drawn up in some local areas. The patients' expenditures have been greatly reduced. The government has enhanced the management of patients with severe mental disorders, including case reporting and registration, assistance and treatment. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of registered patients with severe mental illnesses increased from 3.08 million to 5.4 million nationwide. From 59.1 percent to 88.7 percent, more and more patients were put under management. The state has enhanced the intervention in common mental disorders or psychological problems, like depression and anxiety. It has intensified the efforts to promptly detect and treat psychological problems among key groups, built up the psychological intervention capacity in emergency events, and promoted the community rehabilitation services for mental disorders.

The ability to quickly respond to public health emergencies has been strengthened in a comprehensive way. The legal system for emergency response has taken initial shape, and the response mechanism has been optimized. Thirty-six national teams and nearly 20,000 local teams, with over 200,000 members for four categories of emergencies, have been set up in different regions. In 2014, China's core public health emergency response capacity achieved 91.5 percent of the requirements of the International Health Regulations, better than the world's average of 70 percent. In recent years the state has accelerated the construction of a public health emergency response system, which not only effectively handled such epidemic emergencies as human infections of the avian influenza A (H7N9) virus, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome and Zika fever, but also promptly carried out emergency medical rescue and post-disaster epidemic prevention in such disasters and accidents as the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and the 2015 Tianjin Port explosions.

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