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A new chapter of China-Czech Republic health cooperation

Source: en.nhfpc.gov.cn

Updated: 2015-06-15

In speaking about the Czech Republic, the minister of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, Li Bin, has noted that the Chinese often associate it with beautiful scenery, a long history, spectacular buildings, great culture, and classical literary works, such as the Good Soldier Schweik and the Unbearable Lightness of Being, which makes it natural for the Chinese to feel close to the country and its people.

China and the Czech Republic have a long friendship and the old Silk Road brought the two countries together. When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the Czech Republic was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with it and it was one of the first to have student and other exchanges and cooperation with China. In recent years, the two have greater political trust, economic and trade cooperation, cultural exchanges, and pragmatic cooperation. Last year, China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang met at different times with President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic and leaders of both countries reached a new consensus on development of relations in a strategic way, and opening a new page in Sino-Czech relations.

Health is one important part of these exchanges and cooperation.The two governments signed a 2013-2016 health plan and a medicine and healthcare memorandum of understanding. There was also a Sino-Czech health forum in Prague in 2013 and in the Chinese city of Tianjin in 2014 and there have been local and nongovernment healthcare exchanges. The cities of Beijing and Shanghai and Hunan province have many cooperation deals with Czech partners, while many Czech delegations have come to China to study medical and health system reforms, so healthcare cooperation has reached a new phase with new connotation in bilateral relations.

The China-Central and East European health ministers meeting will take place in Prague in June. And China will work with 16 central and eastern European countries, including the Czech Republic, on the UN Millennium Development and post-2015 sustainable development goals, with their leaders taking part. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Chinese Vice-premier Liu Yandong, and the World Health Organization’s Secretary-general Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun will be giving keynote speeches and the National Health and Family Planning Commission is looking forward to the meeting and in-depth exchanges with health ministers from those countries for greater health and medical science integration.

Health is important for a happy life, and public health is the cornerstone of a state and China considers it in an important part of development. It has made health work a part of national economic and social development planning and looks for its own health development based on its own conditions and has managed to use limited input to safeguard the health of its people, who account for about a fifth of the global population.

The Chinese government started a new round of medical and healthcare reforms in 2009, with its sights set on an essential medical and healthcare system covering both urban and rural people by 2020, so that everyone enjoys essential medical and healthcare services. China is working to solve its medical problems in its own way, to build a healthy country and the new round of reforms has had some great results through persistent effort, laying a solid foundation for reaching the goal.

There have been positive results in reforms at public hospitals, which play a leading role in basic medical and healthcare services. In recent years, China has focused on eliminating the ties between hospital and staff incomes and drug prescriptions, increasing the enthusiasm of medical staff, and has continued systems innovation for comprehensive public hospital reforms. This has covered county-level public hospitals across the country, as well as 100 urban public hospitals in pilot cities this year and it indicates that public hospital development is basically on the right track, with improved services and the excessive rise in medical expenses contained and a basic universal medical insurance system taking shape. China already has the world's largest basic medical insurance network, with the opt-in rate of employees, urban residents, and the New Rural Co-operative Medical System rates remaining above 95 percent. The country also has serious illness, emergency medical aid, charitable aid, and commercial insurance policies for a universal, well-connected medical insurance system.

The medical network covering urban and rural areas is improving, with a rural healthcare service network led by county hospitals that relies on township hospitals and village clinics. It has an urban service network with the community health service center playing a big part and new operations improved.

It has established a national essential drugs system and all government and community medical institutions have zero-added-value sales of essential drugs, and an orderly sales policy for village clinics and non-government community-level medical institutions. Drug prices have fallen by around 30 percent since before the reforms and there is now a supply security system for drugs that suffer from a shortage, ensuring the supply of essential drugs for clinical use, or for small dosages or for children.

Equality in access to essential public healthcare services has been improved and the country insists on prevention first and offers 12 essential public healthcare services for free. There are free operations for people with cataracts in poor area and free checks for cervical and breast cancers for women. There are also subsidies for pregnant or lying-in rural women for giving birth in an institution. These public health programs have benefitted more than 200 million people and have played a positive role in reducing illness and improving public health.

The development of talented personnel has been strengthened with greater medical skills and education in ethics with five years at medical school and a three-year standardized residency, in line with international practices. China has a general practitioner system and primary talent team development with the focus on general practitioners and free study for those who volunteer to serve in rural areas.

China's healthcare management has certainly improved after the reforms with greater efficiency and better public health, with life expectancy increasing to 75 years in 2007 and infant mortality rates dropping to 0.89 percent. The mortality rate for children under five has fallen to 1.17 percent, in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals and ahead of schedule. The maternal mortality rate has fallen to 21.7 out of 100,000, reaching UN goals a year ahead of time. Chinese overall health conditions are in the forefront of developing countries.

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