China / Politics

Healthcare changes to aid new family planning policy

By Shan Juan ( Updated: 2014-04-17 20:26

The nation's top health authority has been taking steps to boost women and children healthcare resources as the government prepares for the relaxation of the family planning policy, top government official said Thursday.

Wang Guoqing, vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, made the comment at the 2014 national work conference on women's and children's health.

The changes will seek to further improve the health of women and children, Wang said.

"New measures and policies will be issued to better facilitate the rule changes," which now allow couples in which only one spouse is an only child to have two children, he said.

China is expected to welcome an additional 2 million newborns each year on average, mostly in urban areas, medium and large cities and destination places for internal migration in particular.

In response, "maternity and women and children healthcare resources will be further expanded and strengthened", he said.

Existing women and children healthcare and family planning service facilities will be consolidated to improve public access to more quality healthcare services, he said.

Currently, there are about 3,000 women and children healthcare facilities and 35,300 family planning service outlets nationwide, the commission said. But some places have already begun to report increased demand, particularly for maternity services.

To enhance the outlets' capacity, the central government planned to invest about 16 billion yuan ($2.57 billion) between 2011 and 2015 in aspects like staff training and equipment updates.

Also, pre-pregnancy examinations must be further strengthened, given that more women at a relatively older age have been seeking to have another baby after the policy relaxation.

"They are vulnerable to maternity complications, and their children born are at higher risk of birth defects as well," he said.

Usually, women who had their first child via a cesarean section are highly likely to have the second the same way, and that will require enhanced capacity of maternity-service providers.

Moreover, medical management of high-risk pregnant women and newborns needs to be beefed up, he said, adding that facilities specialized in emergency medical treatment for such women and babies suffering serious conditions will be set up nationwide.

A national database of the newborns will be set up to provide information support for women and children health improvement and further adjustments to the family planning policy, he added.

By 2013, China's maternity death rate stood at 23.2 out of 100,000, which had dropped by more than 56 percent over 2000, official statistics showed. The infant mortality rate at 9.5 out of each 1,000 has decreased by more than 70 percent over the same period of time.

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