China: Major Health Issues


Fraser Clarke

China is one of the latest locations we’ve started working with, with a number of roles in one of Beijing’s leading private hospitals becoming available over the past few months.

The vast country is the world’s most populated, and was home to an estimated 1,379,302,771 individuals at the last count. This immense size, rapid development and ever growing population can combine, to create a unique range of major healthcare challenges however.

In this special feature we’ve taken a look at the five major health issues you should be aware of if you’re considering a move to China.

1 - Pollution Related Respiratory Conditions

China is infamous around the world for the vast levels of pollution it emits into the atmosphere each year and so, unsurprisingly, that has started to have a serious impact on the health of the nation.

Estimates suggest that between 350,000 and 500,000 people die each year as a direct result of the so called ‘Airpocalypse’, with rates of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), acute lower respiratory infections and lung cancer being amongst the world’s highest.

The Government - along with other bodies like the G8 - are attempting to slow this death rate, by attempting to lower the country’s reliance of fossil fuels in an attempt to slow down climate change, and prevent the air quality turning toxic in many of the major cities. The damage may have already been done however, and so expect to work with many people dealing with respiratory problems if you elect to move to the country.

2 - Diabetes

Few people would think of China when they are researching diabetes. The Gulf, the USA and even parts of Europe are thought to have far higher rates, whilst historically it hasn’t been an issue which has affected China.

That has all changed in the past 20 years however, with the country now home to the most diabetics in the world - a statistic that represents an incredible rise since the 1980s when just 1% of the population had the condition.

13% of the country’s total health expenditure now goes towards the treatment of diabetics, and this rate only looks as if it will rise in the future as the health of the nation continues to decline.

3 - An Ageing Population

Following a ‘baby boom’ by advocating having a smaller family (with the one child policy for example) now means that China is facing a range of issues related to an ageing population.

By the year 2035 more than 25% of the country’s population will be over the age of 60, with that putting them at an increased risk of conditions such as dementia, vertigo, strokes and chronic pain. These conditions can not only put an increased stretch on healthcare resources, they can also have a significant impact on the economy built on a smaller workforce.

That represents both difficulties and opportunities for medics considering a move to the country. On the negative side it could lead to medical infrastructure becoming overrun with elderly patients, however it will also force the country into attracting new, working age, medical professionals from overseas. Potentially increasing the range of roles on offer.

4 - Strokes

It wouldn’t be right to look at the health issues facing a country without identifying some of the biggest killers, and in China Strokes are a massive issue.

Strokes are the second most common cause of death in the country, although recent research published by the BMJ does hint that these rates may have started to drop.

Unhealthy diets in China peaked around 20 years ago, with the introduction of fast food, and the reduction in traditional eating habits. Greater education looks to have had a positive impact on this trend however, and so it may not be as big an issue as it once was in the not too distant future.

5 - Smoking

Whilst stroke rates are reducing due to high levels of education, smoking rates are showing no such decline. China remains the world’s biggest consumer of tobacco, and the country is home to an estimated 350 million smokers.

Incredibly recent statistics have shown that 60% of Chinese doctors are smokers, whilst this rate can rise even further in more rural areas, and amongst people in less well paid professions.

Smoking is deeply ingrained into the Chinese culture these days, despite smoking bans and increased taxes. It is still considered polite to offer colleagues and friends cigarettes at social functions, whilst the majority of smokers do not consider their habit to be a problem.

This is reflected in Cancer rates, with 28% of deaths in the country coming as a result of tumours. Smoking combined with poor air quality can be a deadly mix, and it’s unsurprising to see Lung Cancer considered as one of the country’s biggest killers.

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