The fifth Sino-US Symposium on Medicine in the 21st Century opened in Beijing yesterday. According to the Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu who was speaking on the occasion, major infectious diseases, major chronic diseases, maternal and child health, mental health, environmental health and behavioral health are all focuses of the Chinese Health/Well-being Strategy till 2020.
Chen was reported that the success of the strategy would be seen in life expectancy, infant mortality and maternal mortality, as well as the control of communicable diseases and chronic non-communicable diseases. Improved accessibility to health services and the development of the biomedicine industry were also key factors.
Currently, plans are already in place to adopt the strategy. Other keys to improving China's health include the prevention and control of liver diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and schistosomiasis (snail fever), metabolic syndrome and cancer. The strategy also highlights mental health with an accent on the young and the elderly. According to the China Psychology Association, 30 million adolescents in China are suffering mental health problems. Among those with mental disorders, up to 32 percent are students from middle school and primary school, and up to 25.4 percent are college students.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has called for stricter enforcement of a law aimed at preventing occupational health problems. Despite the progress that has been made in enforcing the prevention law, which took effect in May 2002 to protect workers' health rights, many people are still at risk of contracting occupational diseases, stresses Vice-Minister of Health Chen Xiaohong. "Occupational health problems and work-related ailments are still taking huge tolls, both human and economic, on China," Chen was quoted.
Such illnesses pose a potential threat to some 200 million Chinese people and cause 300 billion yuan (about 40 billion U.S. dollars) of economic losses every year, statistics from State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) show. "The experience of recent years shows that (occupational diseases) are more than a public health problem. They are an important factor affecting stability and harmony," emphasizes Chen.
Disagreements between stricken workers and employers have brought about soaring number of public petitions and labor disputes in recent years. Last year, unresolved medical disputes involving occupational diseases were the fifth most common form of public petition submitted to the Ministry of Health, Xue Xiaolin, a division director in charge of handling petitions at the ministry, informed. "Chinese workers have a growing sense of their rights, but the extreme approach doesn't work and usually worsens the situation," Chen says. "Local health administrations that recognize and diagnose work-caused health problems should strictly abide by the law and uphold people's rights. Health officials must practice self-discipline and must not be influenced by employers who want to evade responsibility," Chen added
Chen also said the government will consider shouldering medical fees. At present, either labor insurance or the employers themselves must cover the fees, but only if a contract is signed beforehand, according to the law.