|September 03, 2014|
China faces looming health crisis, warn experts
|China's rapid development has created a "time bomb" of health problems arising from choking smog, reckless driving, widespread smoking, growing obesity and ignorance about mental illness, a new report warns. |
The Lancet medical journal has devoted an entire issue to China's looming public health crisis, warning its leaders must learn from the mistakes of the West or face enormous health problems that could be largely prevented.
Roughly 800,000 Chinese die each year from injuries, with road accidents currently the leading cause of death for people under the age of 45 after an explosion in the number of cars on the roads.
Writing in the Lancet, Professor Jeffrey P Koplan of Emory University in Atlanta, together with Huang Cheng of George Washington University and Professor Yu Hai of the Zhejiang School of Medicine, said China must do more to address reckless and drunk driving.
They also point out 173 million Chinese suffer from mental illness but only "a small proportion of them have sought professional help".
Air pollution caused 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010, they noted, and soil and water pollution are also rife. In June 2013, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said six Chinese invididuals are diagnosed with cancer every minute, with around two million deaths each year. By 2020, the Chinese government forecasts four million new cancer cases annually.
Deaths linked to smoking, meanwhile, are expected to rise to two million a year by 2020 and three million by 2040, according to Chinese government projections and there could be more than 800 million overweight or obese Chinese by 2030.
"China has developed rapidly [...] in the overall health of its large population," the authors noted. "But it must now wake up to its impending chronic health problems and take firm action."
"China has shown its ability to set priorities, make ambitious goals, and meet or exceed them. Can it do the same for health promotion and disease prevention?" asked the authors.
Meanwhile, Chinese hospitals remain "wasteful and inefficient", according to Professor Winnie Yip at Oxford University and Prof William Hsiao at Harvard University.
In another paper in the Lancet, they argue that while the government almost doubled health spending to £84 billion between 2009 and 2012, there remain "considerable challenges" to providing good care.