China should do more to curb a rise in non-communicable diseases like heart disease and diabetes that have long been neglected and now pose a risk to its economy, global health experts warned.
Non-communicable diseases challenge China's economic development and cause a burden on society, said Bernhard Schwartländer, the World Health Organization's representative in China, in a press briefing on Tuesday. 'The cost of inaction, of doing nothing-in lives lost and social and economic prosperity foregone-is too great a price to pay,' he said.
He was joined by representatives of China's National Health and Family Planning Commission and China's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Schwartländer said that high rates of smoking, lack of exercise and unhealthy diets have contributed to diseases. He said that the Chinese government should adopt policies to address problems, which have been overlooked and underfunded.
By 2015, the burden of death and health complications related to non-communicable disease will have cost $500 billion in the last decade, Dr. Schwartlander said. Reducing mortality only by addressing cardiovascular disease, reducing rates 1% per year in by 2040, would generate $10.7 trillion, he said.
Health care was largely left out a reform agenda Chinese leaders unveiled on Tuesday, though it briefly mentioned improving people's welfare and strengthening reform of the medical and health system. China launched in 2009 an overhaul of its health-care system, establishing a universal insurance system to provide citizens more access to medical care.
China is struggling to deal with a population that is urbanizing, aging and is afflicted with chronic disease. Migration of millions of Chinese citizens to big cities from rural regions has spurred use of cigarettes, higher alcohol intake and increasingly sedentary lifestyles-all habits that lend to illness.
Now China is home to the world's largest diabetes population, with the prevalence of 11.6% of the population-surpassing Russia's population, said Li Guangwei, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. Chronic disease is the cause of 85% of deaths in China, according to China's Ministry of Health. By comparison, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the rate is 70 per 100 in the U.S., while the World Health Organization says they represent 63% of deaths world-wide.
Funding remains a major issue, experts said. China's health spending as a percent of GDP totaled 2.3% in 2011, compared to U.S. spending of 9.7%, according to the most recent data available from the World Bank.
Community clinics are overrun with patients and lack resources needed to address health problems, said Wang Bin, the deputy director the Disease Control and Prevention department of China's National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Tobacco control remains underfunded, said Jiang Yuan, deputy director of the Tobacco Control Office of China's CDC. The government allocated only 20 million yuan (about $3.3 million) last year for tobacco control, Ms. Jiang said.
Dr. Schwartländer said it isn't likely that the China will reach the target set for it by the WHO to cut smoking rates in China by at least 30% by 2025. Currently 28% of people older than 15-301 million people-are smokers in China and smoking-related sickness kills more than one million Chinese citizens each year, according to WHO data. That compares to 43.8 million smokers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts said that the government should not shoulder all the responsibilities to improve health conditions and that citizens should adopt healthier lifestyles by eating less salt, exercising more and cutting bad habits like smoking and drinking . 'People are the owners of their own health,' said Dr. Wang, adding, 'We're at an important window in China.'
世界卫生组织(World Health Organization)驻中国代表施贺德(Bernhard Schwartlander)周二在一个新闻发布会上表示，非传染性疾病令中国的经济发展面临挑战，而且造成社会负担，如果不采取行动，听由此类疾病夺去生命、影响社会和经济发展，那么未来要付出的代价将是沉重的。
中国医学科学院教授李光伟说，目前中国是全球糖尿病患者最多的国家，患病率达到11.6%，患者人数超过了俄罗斯的总人口数。中国卫生部称，中国85%的死亡都是因慢性疾病造成的。而美国疾病控制与预防中心(U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)发布的数据显示，美国的这一比率为70%；世界卫生组织称全球63%的死亡是由慢性病所致。