Focus on children’s healthcare leads to improved outcomes

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The importance of protecting children’s health has been gaining increasing attention in recent years. During the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016 to 2020), various policies designed to improve healthcare services, such as focusing on the prevention and treatment of infants with birth defects, were published by the National Health Commission and relevant departments.

China has been devoting more resources to the provision of healthcare over the past decade, with spending hitting 6.5 to 7 percent of GDP in 2020.

Along with the country’s increasing healthcare expenditure, the revised Law on the Protection of Minors, passed in June, further promotes the development of a child-friendly society and pushes for the development of societal elements which benefit minors.

To make healthcare services for children more accessible and allow high-quality medical resources to be distributed more equally, in September 2020, the National Health Commission announced a plan to set up five regional medical centers for children across the country. The document specifies that the centers will be located in the northeast, east, mid-south, southwest, and northwest of the country.

In December 2020, construction work began on a regional medical center for children at Xi’an Jiaotong University Children’s Hospital. Upon completion, the center will lead the development and provision of pediatric healthcare services in the entire northwest region.

As a result of the enhanced management system for children’s healthcare services in both urban and rural areas in place since 2010, there have been three major breakthroughs in the following health indicators:

  • Significant improvement in children’s level of health: in 2018, the National Health Commission published a notification concerning the plan on the prevention and treatment of infants with birth defects, targeting a general improvement in the level of health for infants and children. The infant mortality rate and the mortality rate for children under five in 2020 were 0.54 percent and 0.75 percent, with a notable 33.3 percent and 30 percent decrease compared to 2015;
  • Consistent enhancement in children’s health development: in 2019, health authorities started to target the healthy development of infants and young children by promoting breastfeeding and strengthening preventative healthcare. Only 3.24 percent of infants were born underweight in 2019, and the prevalence of underweight children under five was 1.37 percent. Both numbers far exceeded the goals outlined in the China Children’s Development Program (2011-2020);
  • Remarkable results in children’s health management: China has gradually set up an immunity supervision and management system which operates on the national, provincial, municipal, and county levels, with service webs operating in counties, towns, and villages. In 2019, the national management rate for children under three was 91.9 percent, and 93.6 percent for children under seven, an increase of 0.7 percent and 0.9 percent compared to 2018.