China is to set up health records for its 800 million rural residents as part of an ambitious reform that aims to provide basic medical care for all by 2020, state media said.
By the end of this year at least five percent of the rural population should have records under a pilot project to test implementation of the new system, Xinhua news agency said, citing a ministry of health plan announced Thursday.
It said the ministry hoped to cover at least 30 percent by 2011. Key groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, children, disabled people and those with chronic diseases would be prioritised.
The move is part of a major reform to provide "safe, effective, convenient and affordable" medical services for China's 1.3 billion people by 2020.
An initial three-year programme will see 850 billion yuan (124 billion dollars) invested from 2009 to 2011 to reform the unpopular current system which is seen as costly, badly funded and providing shoddy treatment.
Health care has long been a source of discontent among the nation's people since cradle-to-grave social security systems were systematically dismantled amid China's transformation into a capitalist society.
The situation has been particularly hard for masses of rural poor who must use their own meagre savings to pay for sub-par medical services at backward and ill-equipped clinics and hospitals.