In 2009 the Chinese Government launched a plan to reform healthcare in China. Dubbed ‘Healthy China 2020’ the aim is to develop a universal national health system.
In the past two years the Government has spent USA$132B on reform measures. This has resulted in lower costs to consumers for medicines and increased subsidies to those in rural areas seeking medical assistance. Government expenditure on healthcare has increased from 15% to 29%.
China is a large and diverse landmass with a history extending back several thousand years. While controlled by the Communist Party, the country had been engaged in the capitalist pursuit of wealth for the past twenty five years. Health reform may be seen as an acceptance in China that increasing economic growth can create inequities in society and that those inequities may need to be funded through the economic gains garnered by industry. While the Community Party rules China, and indirectly influences a good number of other countries, it does so with the goodwill of its people. A core tenement of Chinese culture is right of the people to dispose of those rulers that fail to cater to the needs of the people.
Reform of healthcare may be a forerunner to development of greater services for the Chinese people, designed to minimise inequities. This is often the hidden benefit of economic growth.
The recent America-China health summit at Harvard Business School highlight the symbiotic benefits of sharing knowledge on healthcare reform. The experiences in China will provide lessons for many Western nations struggling to find a balance in healthcare. Yet at the same time, the lessons of the past in Western Countries provide China with the capacity to gain knowledge quickly as well as identify the mistakes others have made in the past.
It is possible there will be a role reversal in the next couple of decades and that a future summit may be retitled the China-America Health Summit!
These are my thoughts for the day.