China Economic Comment – October 2014

China’s changing healthcare needs require major changes to the system to avoid economic pain. The population is ageing and life expectancy is rising. With these two trends, demand for healthcare services is set to increase – particularly given the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases.

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China’s changing healthcare needs require major changes to the system to avoid economic pain

We have previously outlined the major demographic changes that are transforming the population profile of China. The population is ageing and life expectancy is rising. With these two trends, demand for healthcare services is set to increase – particularly given the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases. China began to reform its healthcare sector in 2009, however this process is far from complete. Further reforms to healthcare will be required to expand and improve the access to the system and improve patient outcomes.

China’s health needs are changing – the disease profile is becoming more complex

Over the past few decades, the profile of China’s health needs have changed considerably, in line with China’s industrialisation and rising levels of wealth. Fewer people are dying from relatively readily treated acute and infectious diseases and instead the rates of death from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have increased significantly. According to World Bank data, deaths from NCDs have increased from around 80% of the total in 2000, to around 87% in 2012 – a level that is closer to trends in advanced economies than developing ones.
In particular, there have been considerable increases in the rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic lung conditions (including cancer). A range of factors have contributed to these trends, including the increasing levels of urbanisation, changing dietary patterns (with improved food security and increased consumption of salt and fat), rising rates of obesity, smoking rates and pollution.

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