The Challenge of Rural Health Care in America and China

July 7, 2010

This morning, I read in the AARP Bulletin about small town medicine in the US aptly titled Lonesome Doc.  I learned that 77 million Americans (more than 25% of the population) living in rural areas have 10% of the doctors and that a 2008 study found life expectancies are declining in rural America.  Many doctors will not work in rural America where primary care doctors make about $20,000 a year less than their big-city counterparts.

China has similar challenges with rural health care. In 2009, The Journal of International Relations reported that in China “low-end institutions, particularly the rural township hospitals and community hospitals in the cities are gradually shrinking. More than 87% of rural population was without any health insurance.…When rural low income people need to go to the hospital, 70 to 90% choose self care.”

Then near the end of 2009, China’s central government announced a new five-year plan to improve the quality of life for rural citizens. The New Health Care Bill Facts reported “The (Chinese) government decision to improve healthcare infrastructure in rural areas will result in increasing demand of medical devices and equipment.”

China also recently sent a team to Sweden to learn how chronic diseases are managed there since China, with its ageing population, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of chronic disease cases.”

I wondered what the US was doing to improve rural-health care.  I did read that primary-care doctors coming out of college would have student loans forgiven if they work in rural America. After all, this is America where we trust in the private sector to solve everything as long as the money is there.

See China’s Health Care During Mao’s Time


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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