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China offers free pre-marital medical check
Updated: 2004-12-18 17:29

After the canceling of compulsive pre-marital medical check-ups, China's local governments are trying to provide free ones to new couples to help curb the spread of inherited and contagious diseases.

Laoshan district of Qingdao in east China's Shandong Province is one of the leaders in the country. Since this May, the district government has decided to allocate 250,000 yuan per year to subsidize the tests.

Wuchang district of Wuhan city in central China's Hubei Province, and Putuo District of Zhoushan city in east China's Zhejiang Province have similar programs.

The measures are welcomed by many new couples. From Oct. 1, 2003, when the compulsive pre-marital medical check-up was abolished, to May, 2004, 1,228 couples in Laoshan have registered with the local civil departments for marriage, but only 2 percent got medical check-ups. Since they have been free, the rate has gone up to 20 percent in six months.

China adopted the New Regulation on Marriage Registration on Oct. 1, 2003. Under the new regulation, people registered with thecivil affairs departments for marriage can decided themselves to choose whether or not to stand for physical exams before they get married.

This change has been hailed by many as a marked improvement. But a growing number of citizens are increasingly concerned with anegative impact brought by the drop-off in those willing to have the checkup.

Statistics from the health department of central China's Hunan Province shows that the province has 600,000 new-borns every year.The rate of new-borns with congenital physical defect increased to12.34 per thousand from 2001's nine per thousand.

Wang Xiaoguang, deputy director in charge of the Laoshan District Women and Children Hospital, said pre-marital check-ups could help find inherited and contagious diseases, such as hemophilia, congenital heart disease, sexually-transmitted diseases and mental illness, helping curb the spread of these diseases.

Health department statistics show that in the past ten years, 10 percent of new couples in urban areas have been diagnosed with various kinds of diseases in pre-marital check-ups, 13 to 15 percent in the rural areas.

To encourage new couples to receive medical check-ups before marriage, the Laoshan district government provides different medical check-up packages to offer convenience for new couples andset strict regulations for doctors to protect privacy of check-up receivers.

Though provided with the free lunch, local government at Laoshan is not satisfied with the results, saying 20 percent is still too low.

Xin Xinzeng, a physician at the Laoshan Women and Children Health Care Center, attributes the low rates to the poor awarenessof many people on the importance of the checkup. In the past, he said, many doctors gave the check-ups perfunctorily, and many camenot to trust them.

In the meantime, legal circles excluded the possibility of making premarital medical check-up compulsory again.

"There is no legal foundation for reviving compulsory physical check-ups," said Yu Huazhong, lawyer at the Shandong Qindao Law Office. "The problem is how to make people really believe it's necessary to get such a check-up."

The government of Laoshan District is also aware of that. It intends to set up a large network to spread the knowledge of the importance of the free pre-marital physical check-up.

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