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Free pre-marriage health tests offered
Updated: 2004-12-09 14:02

Wuchang district in central China's Wuhan city is offering free pre-marriage health checkups, but the majority of couples about to marry are not interested.

Why is this the case and how can health care workers make sure the next generation is healthy?

Pre-marriage checkups were once compulsory for couples, and they could not get a marriage certificate unless they had had one. The purpose of the check-ups was to make sure diseases were not spread between couples or mothers and babies.

But since the Chinese Government abolished the compulsive pre-marriage checkups last October, the percentage of new couples paid to do the checks has dropped from 95 per cent to 2 per cent.

Some health care professionals are concerned this will result in more people in the next generation being exposed to diseases.

Zhou Lin is one of the few people who insisted on doing the health check before getting married. She went to a health center in the capital city of Beijing, saying the tests were quick and easy..

"We did the checkup this April before we got married. The doctors were very nice, maybe because there were few people there. The fee was about 200 yuan, which is quite affordable. And it only took half a day to see the final results."

Things are similar in other parts of China. Wuchang's Health Department has tried several ways of attracting new couples to the clinic to do the test. They have decorated and enlarging the checkup rooms and added new services as part of the health consultations. But the changes are not having the desired effect.

Finally as a last resort the Wuchang district decided to start offering free tests from this October. They say they are seeing an increase in numbers of couples coming to the clinic. Yang Zhi, the director of the Public Health Bureau of the district told CRI 10 times the number before the free checkup was launched in his clinic! And the success has attracted attention from across China. Praises and applause has poured into the small area, almost overnight. Yangzhi did the sums and told other governments the good new.

"Last year, 45 hundred couples got married. If all of them came for the checkups, the government would need to pay 800 thousand yuan, or about 100 thousand U.S. dollars. It's less than 200 yuan for each couple. I believe most local governments in China can easily afford that."

However, even with free tests, 20 percent is still too low a number for Yang Zhi, whose work is to collect accurate data on the public's health. What else needs to be done? While suggesting free services be expanded to other parts of China, Yang Zhi believes the focus should be put on informing and educating the public about the importance of doing the pre-marriage health checkup.

"Though the regulation loses the control and respects the choice of individuals, the public is actually not aware that they should do that to protect themselves; their beloved husbands or wives and their children. So much work needs to be done to make the public realize the importance of the checkup."

Of course it will take time to reach the goal. With more local communities starting to offer this service free of charge, Yang Zhi is confident that consistent efforts by the central and local governments will soon influence the general public.

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