1990s to Present

Western style medical facilities with international staffs are available in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and a few other large cities. Many other hospitals in major Chinese cities have so-called V.I.P. wards or gaogan bingfang. These feature reasonably up-to-date medical technology and physicians who are both knowledgeable and skilled. Most V.I.P. wards also provide medical services to foreigners and have English-speaking doctors and nurses. Physicians and hospitals have sometimes refused to supply American patients with complete copies of their Chinese hospital medical records, including laboratory test results, scans, and x-rays.

Despite the introduction of western style medical facilities1, the PRC has several emerging public health problems, which include problems as a result of pollution, a progressing HIV-AIDS epidemic, millions of cigarette smokers2, and the increase in obesity among the population.3, 4 The HIV epidemic, in addition to the usual routes of infection, was exacerbated in the past by unsanitary practices used in the collection of blood in rural areas.5 The problem with tobacco is complicated by the concentration of most cigarette sales in a government controlled monopoly. The government, dependent on tobacco revenue, seems hesitant in its response and may even encourage it as seen from government websites.6 Hepatitis B is endemic in mainland China, with about 10% of the population contracting the disease.7 Hepatitis has also been recently found to have resulted in fewer females being born, partially explaining China's gender imbalance.8 A program initiated in 2002 will attempt over the next 5 years to vaccinate all newborns in mainland China.9

In 2002, the pneumonia-like SARS surfaced in Guangdong province, resulting in 348 deaths. Despite the suppression of news regarding the outbreak during the early stages of the epidemic, the outbreak was soon contained and cases of SARS failed to emerge.10. On 18 May, 2004, the World Health Organization announced the PRC free of further cases of SARS.11

Strains of avian flu outbreaks in recent years among local poultry and birds, along with a number of its citizens, have caused great concern for China and other countries. While the virus is currently mainly animal-human transmissible (with only two well documented cases of human-human have been to the present known of to scientists), experts expect an avian flu pandemic that would affect the region should the virus morph to be human-human transmissible.12

A more recent outbreak is the pig-human transmission of the Streptococcus suis bacteria in 2005, which has led to 18 deaths in and around Sichuan province, an unusually high number. Although the bacteria exists in other pig rearing countries, the pig-human transmission has only been reported in China.13

As of 2005 about 1 million Chinese have been infected with the HIV virus with about 150,000 deaths. Projections are for about 10 million cases by 2010 if nothing is done. Effective preventive measures have become a priority at the highest levels of the government, but progress is slow. A promising pilot program exists in Gejiu partially funded by international donors.

As of 2004, in more undeveloped areas it is advised to only drink bottled water as cholera, among other diseases, is spread through the water supply.


1- China Highlights. Accessed 17 April 2006.

2- "Smoking 'will kill one third of young Chinese men'". 16 August 2001. Honolulu Community College. Accessed 17 April 2006.

3- "Serving the people?". 1999. Bruce Kennedy. CNN. Accessed 17 April 2006.

4- "Obesity Sickening China's Young Hearts". 4 August 2000. People's Daily. Accessed 17 April 2006.

5- "HIV and AIDS in China". 29 March 2006. AVERT. Accessed 17 April 2006.

6- "The Little Red Pack". 12 October 2005. Harper's Magazine. Accessed 17 April 2006.

7- "Prevention and control of hepatitis B in China". 2002. NCBI. Accessed 17 April 2006.

8- "Hepatitus B and the Case of the Missing Women". 13 August 2005. Emily Oster. Harvard University. Accessed 17 April, 2006

9- "China launches battle against hepatitis". 1 June 2002. James Jones. BBC News. Accessed 17 April 2006.

10- "After Its Epidemic Arrival, SARS Vanishes". 15 May 2005. Jim Yardley. Accessed 17 April, 2006.

11- "China’s latest SARS outbreak has been contained, but biosafety concerns remain". 18 May 2004. World Health Organization. Accessed 17 April 2006.

12- "Avian Influenza Infection in Humans". 2006. Centers for Disease Control. Accessed 17 April 2006.

13- "Streptococcus suis Outbreak, Swine and Human, China". August 2005. Veterinary Service. Accessed 17 April 2006.


Health :: Public Health in Modern China

Introduction | Traditional and Modern | 1950s- 1980s | 1990s to Present




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