While the Health Ministers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met on Tuesday, to prepare for the BRICS Health Ministerial Meeting to be held in Beijing on July 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the “World Health Statistics 2011”. The report statistically proves how China has outperformed India in tackling the “double-burden” of diseases that include infectious diseases affecting the poor on the one hand and chronic lifestyle ailments typical of fast urbanisation on the other.
Following in the steps of noted Indian economist Amartya Sen who compares not just the Indian and Chinese economies but delves into their standard of living and quality of life in his new book, the WHO’s statistics prove that while India’s life expectancy has shot up to 65 years in 2009, up from 61 years in 2000 and China has improved the same to 74 years during the last 10 years, China’s targeted health expenditure and growing coverage of health insurance, unlike India’s, has made a remarkable dent since 2003, thereby drastically improving the average Chinese’s standard of living.
In Sen’s book – Quality of Life India Vs China, he points out – Life expectancy at birth in China is 73.5 years; in India it is 64.4 years. The infant mortality rate is fifty per thousand in India, compared with just seventeen in China; the mortality rate for children under five is sixty-six per thousand for Indians and nineteen for the Chinese; and the maternal mortality rate is 230 per 100,000 live births in India and thirty-eight in China. The mean years of schooling in India were estimated to be 4.4 years, compared with 7.5 years in China. China’s adult literacy rate is 94 percent, compared with India’s 74 percent according to the preliminary tables of the 2011 census.
Meanwhile, more recently, (73 years after Dr. Kotnis cured the ill in China), officials from China’s State Food and Drug Administration led by Mr. Zhang Mao, Vice Minister of Health visited India and met health ministry officials as well as executives from pharmaceutical and drug manufacturing companies as well as people involved in rural healthcare and health policy planning. A reciprocal delegation of Indian pharmaceutical companies visited China in March.
Inchin Closer was privy to one of the presentations made by the delegation in India, which wanted to incorporate Indian rural health reforms in China. The delegation understood the problems in China – an aging population coupled with sky high prices of drugs for modern diseases which has created an inefficient market, that inculcates the use of fake drugs. As a result, the two governments decided to work together to eliminate the common health problems they face and learn from each other’s mistakes.
China hopes to achieve primary health as a public good for all by 2020 – ie give every Chinese equal access to basic health services regardless of their location, ethnicity, age, gender, occupation, income etc. It also hopes to set up a national essential drug system, improve health services at a grassroots level and reform public hospitals.