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New health commission set to be established

By Shan Juan (China Daily)
Updated: 2013-03-11 07:18

A new national health and family planning commission will be established by merging the National Population and Family Planning Commission with the Ministry of Health, according to the report on the State Council's institutional reforms and the transformation of government functions.

Although no time scale has been announced, the new commission will be in charge of planning the allocation of resources for medical care and public health. It will also oversee family planning services and formulate policy, and supervise and administer public health and medical care, according to the report.

New health commission set to be established

"That will herald the formation of a new 'super-department' responsible for health and population-related issues of the populace from birth to death," said Chen Xiaohong, vice-minister of health and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Improving and better ensuring the health of the country's newborns is one of the primary goals of the reforms, he added.

"The merger doesn't indicate that the government will pay less attention to family planning," said Yang Yuxue, executive deputy director of the China Family Planning Association and also a member of the CPPCC.

"China will stick to the family planning policy as a basic national policy to maintain a low level of reproduction," he said, with reference to China's huge population.

According to the report, the integration of the two ministerial-level departments is aimed at better upholding the family planning policy, improving medical care services and deepening the institutional reform of medical care and public health.

That would help optimize the allocation of medical care and public health resources as well as family planning services, improving the health of the people including newborn children, the report said.

Lu Jiehua, a professor of social demographics at Peking University, said the new initiative would improve public access to reproductive health services.

The resources available mean the public will receive improved services, particularly in reproductive health consultation and premarital health screenings.

"Previously, the family planning authorities were more focused on family planning and birth control procedures, such as artificial abortion and ligation," Lu noted.

Procedures related to applications for birth permits are also expected to become easier, he said.

In return, health institutions, particularly maternity hospitals, will help with the collection of data relating to population, he added

Huang Jiefu, vice-minister of health and a CPPCC member, welcomed the merger, but suggested that the new department should retain the name of Ministry of Health.

"That's more in line with international practice and will make international exchanges easier," he explained.

In the early 1970s, the first family planning office was established as a subsidiary of the ministry of health. The department first moved toward independent status in the early 1980s in a bid to strengthen efforts to curb China's rapid population growth.

According to the latest report, researching and drawing up a strategy of population development and population policies, two functions currently performed by the National Population and Family Planning Commission, will be transferred to the National Development and Reform Commission.

The State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is currently affiliated with the Health Ministry, will also be administered by the new commission, said the report.