Update on China’s Health Care

Under the old socialist system, China had grave-to-cradle health care that improved life expectancy from 35 in 1952 to 69 in 1982 despite limited resources.

After the transition to a market economy in the late 1970s, the old health care system was dismantled. In urban areas, hospitals had to operate independently.

In rural areas, the “Barefoot Doctors” lost incentives to carry on the old practices and either became profit-driven or changed professions. Source: Minnesota 2020

In 2005, China launched a new health care plan, The New Rural Co-operative Medical Care System. However, major medical care is still centered in the larger cities.

One reason is that most doctors do not want to live in rural China. Source: Healthcare reform in the People’s Republic of China

Vineet Arora, MD wrote on Kevin MD.com that she and her husband spent four days visiting the Wuhan Medical School in Hubei Province in Central China. She learned that Chinese medical students watched Grey’s Anatomy and House, MD and wondered if that is what practicing Western medicine was like…

One of the interns said she lives at the hospital (in a dorm) working 6 days a week with one day off working roughly 70-80 hours per week….

Interns and doctors in America and other Western countries work similar hours increasing the risk of making mistakes.

In China, rural health care tends to be traditional while health care in the cities blends in Western style medicine.

Learn more about Attitudes Toward Health in China


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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