BEIJING - China plans to set up a national health and family planning commission by merging the existing Health Ministry with the National Population and Family Planning Commission, a top official said Sunday.
The integration of the two ministerial-level departments is aimed at better upholding the basic national family planning policy, improving medical and health care services and deepening institutional reform in the medical care and public health sectors, State Councilor Ma Kai said in a report to the country's national legislature.
"It also aims to optimize the resource allocation of medical care and public health services and that of family planning services, as well as improve the health of the people, including newborns," said Ma, who is also secretary-general of the State Council, in the report on the State Council institutional reform and transformation of government functions.
The proposed national health and family planning commission will be responsible for planning the resource allocation of medical care, public health and family planning services, establishing a basic medicine system to standardize drug prices, formulating China's family planning policy, and supervising and administering public health, medical care and family planning services, Ma said.
The functions of studying and drawing up the population development strategies and population policies of the existing National Population and Family Planning Commission will be transferred to the existing National Development and Reform Commission, he said.
The existing State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, currently affiliated with the Ministry of Health, will be administered by the proposed national health and family planning commission, he said.
"After the reform, China will adhere to and improve the family planning policy," Ma said.
The proposed integration of the two ministries drew applause from legislators and experts.
"What the current Health Ministry and the National Population and Family Planning Commission are doing now is actually the same, in terms of their work concerning the birth, aging, illness and death of the people," said legislator Chen Haixiao, director of the Taizhou Enze Medical Care Center in east China's Zhejiang Province.
"A 'super health ministry' has been expected for a long period of time," he said.
Chen said some regions, including Shenzhen in southern Guangdong Province, have found success in pilot programs integrating the two departments in recent years.
"Public health and population development are closely connected. Incorporating population, welfare and health management into a single ministry will boost efficiency and facilitate administrative tasks," said Hu Yonghua, dean of the Public Health School at Peking University.
Professor Wang Yukai with the Chinese Academy of Governance said the merger does not mean the family planning policy will be abandoned in the country with a population of 1.3 billion.
"After the integration, China still needs to keep to its family planning policy, but what is more important is that China must strive to improve the quality of the population," he said, referring to boosting various aspects of people's lives, including education, health and general well-being.
However, some experts are not lending their full support to the merger.
"As the family planning policy is still a national policy (that cannot be abolish1ed), the two ministries will still have different functions, even though they are integrated," said Jing Jun, a professor in the Sociology Department of Tsinghua University.
He suggested that after the merger, the functions of the existing National Population and Family Planning Commission should be focused on drawing up family development plans.
"In other words, its role should not be simply limiting population growth, but boosting family development, instead," he said.