Health Issues in China

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Essays about some of the "health" issues currently facing China

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Sister-pages:   Home Up Life in China Life in China (2) Chinese Medical Care(1) Chinese Medical Care(2) Health Issues in China Friendship Award 2008 China Map Intro to China (中文)

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Teachers: click here for the guidelines for my grad-student project (for a different subject, but with similar guidelines)

In the fall of 2008, Michael's medical students at Kunming Medical University created the following academic essays about some of the "health-related" challenges that currently face China. (Each group also did an oral presentation.) By reading these academic paragraphs, I hope you learn some things about China's complicated society, and many of the positive changes that are taking place.

By the way, there was a 200-word maximum for this assignment; most students lost points for failing to edit their work to within the limit. I have not checked the references given (nor was I strict enough in insisting that references be included!). (If you find mistakes with the "facts" on this page, please let me know. Thanks. If you are a student from a group with an "incomplete" entry, I'd love to get the rest of the information!) 

Last year's students wrote about history and practice of medicine in China (click here for the second page).

Natural Disasters


Natural disasters, like the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, create the need for epidemic-prevention and post-trauma counseling. Disasters cause many problems, including the loss of life and property; they can even ruin whole cities in a short time or spread disease to nearby communities. Therefore, the Chinese government faced a serious need for epidemic-prevention after the May 12 earthquake. Since many people and animals died in the earthquake, the remaining bodies putrefied and attracted many flies and mosquitoes that could infect people in other places. In addition, water sources were polluted by the sewage and putrefied corpses, so officials sent hygiene staffers to spray disinfectants at every makeshift house and to continuously monitor water quality. At the same time, many survivors felt powerless, sad or pessimistic, or even suffered from serious mental diseases that might affect their whole lives. In response, trained counselors were sent to help them, and especially to help the children. While reconstructing quake-damaged homes is essential, officials also face more important issues immediately following a natural disaster, such as the needs to prevent the spread of disease and to provide effective psychological help to survivors. (188 words)


Group A: Jessie, Amanda, William, Qian Jingjing, Zhou Xiaohu, Juana

1. Xie Chuanjiao, “Authorities vigilant of water safety,” China Daily (Updated: 2008-06-11 07:43)
2. Author unknown, “Quake-hit town closes again for epidemic prevention,” Xinhua (Updated: 2008-06-27 23:40)
3. Wang Yuanyuan, “Residents suffer post-quake depression” Shenzhen Daily/2008-05/21


Cloning & Genetic Engineering


The technology of cloning and genetic engineering have brought many benefits, such as advancements in medicine and agriculture, but this technology also raises practical and ethical problems. Cloning can be beneficial to mankind. For example, this advanced technology has a promising future in medical areas. It can provide enough resources to make organ transplantation a common treatment for kidney failure and hepatocirrhosis (肝硬化). Cloning may also help keep rare animals from becoming extinct. Similarly, genetic engineering offers agricultural hope to a hungry world. Engineers are now producing drought and flood-resistant rice, for instance. According to a biotechnology professor at Tuskegee University,* genetically modified crops have helped the world’s farmers to double food output over the past 50 years; such improvements are particularly important for a country with 1.3 billion people. However, advanced technology often comes with problems. Both forms of technology may lead to unforeseen consequences if not carefully monitored and tested. Imagine if Hitler were cloned; this might lead to a third world war. Furthermore, scientists cannot give assurance that genetic food won’t harm people’s health in the long run. New technology like cloning and biotechnology are helpful in many areas like agriculture and medicine, but only by taking measures to avoid their harmful effects can they broadly benefit mankind. (215 words)


Group C: Rocky, Catherine, Paul, Tina, Roland, Sophie


*Reference: (posted March 01, 2004; tittle: TechnologyThat Will Save Billions From Starvation By C.S. Prakash and Gregory Conko)


Water Pollution


Water pollution is bringing severe problems to China and needs to be addressed in accordance with the sustainable development philosophy. An investigation from the Sustainable Development Seminar showed that 115 of 118 large Chinese cities had polluted ground water. Furthermore, some 23.3% of the rivers are too toxic to irrigate farmlands, and some 45% of them have no fish alive because of the contamination (污染). Over 54 billion tons of pollution enters China’s rivers every year. About 300 million rural people drink water that is below standard, and about 90 million drink water that is unsafe. However, the government is taking measures to deal with China’s water problems. Zhou Shengxian, the minister of the Environment Protection Department, proposed six tactics to tackle the crisis. The most important thing is to limit dumping trash into the water. Second, more scientific methods must be used to treat industrial sewage (工业废水). Additional tactics include preventing polluting accidents, purifying polluted water, safeguarding drinking water supplies, and exploiting water resources scientifically. Mr. Zhou’s viewpoint matches the sustainable development philosophy (可持续发展观), which China’s government drafted in order to scientifically make use of natural resources. In conclusion, China needs to follow Mr. Zhou’s advice to deal with water pollution by preventing dumping trash, reducing polluting accidents, purifying the sewage and saving water resources; then future generations will also have clean water to drink. (241 words)

Group E: Ashlee, Charity, Richard, Huang Yu-jing, Wang Shuang-zhu, Adam

1. Huang Kangsheng & E Pingling, “Rivers flown through the cities are polluted universally in China”, People's Daily-Overseas Edition (
2. Author Unknown, “The harm of water pollution is not less than flood disaster” (


The Shortage of Energy in China


Because energy is very important to economic development, problems like the imbalance between China’s energy needs and energy supply have become a focus of government policy. Throughout the history of global economic growth, energy has become more and more important. But as a result of excessive use, an imbalance now exists between the needs generated by economic development and the growth of China’s energy supply. According to an official report by Li Tieying, China’s per capita reserves of traditional energy resources are far below the world average. In addition, efficiency in energy consumption is also much lower than in other developed countries. In fact, the report says China faces many other energy problems, such as an irrational usage structure and unbalanced distribution. Fortunately, the Chinese government has taken the energy issue seriously. The report says: “China’s cabinet unveiled its longer-term energy development plan, to be as energy-efficient and environmentally friendly as possible while pursuing economic growth.” In order to implement the program, a specific law named China Energy Conservation Law was passed. Many challenges exist in China’s energy supply, efficiency, usage, and distribution, but the government has passed a major law to address problems while promoting continued economic development. (199 words)

Group H: Jacky, Wendy, Liu Min-xia, Zhong Xiao-bin, Wang Lu, Hu Huan-zhao


李铁映,“全国人大常委会副委员长”,发展必须节约 节约才能发展——李铁映对节约节能问题的几点思考(《求实》,2007-02-24),


Doctor-patient Relationships


Unfortunately, Group J never gave me a "doc" file of their essay.

Group J: Alan, Artz, Jacqueline, Christina, Rita, Sonic


Public Sanitation


Improved regulations for the delivery of government funds, stricter standards for public facilities, greater use of specialized dustbins, and a growing public concern for sanitation have all helped China's public sanitary conditions to improve significantly in recent years. According to a report from the Medical Department of China after the third National Health Service survey, the government invested only 20% of the health funds in counties five years ago, while 80% was used in the big cities. Now the situation has changed a lot. More investments and public sanitation facilities have gone to the small counties. For example, most cities now use dustbins marked for recyclable and non-recyclable trash. In addition, the sanitation facilities are being cleaned up because of stricter management and maintenance. Some of the progress is related to the improved standard of living in China. People are now more concerned about living in a clean environment, so personal health and public sanitation are both improving. To summarize, China's investment in public sanitation, people's awareness of sanitation and the management of public sanitation all have been improved, in recent years, giving Chinese people cleaner, better lives. (188 words)

Group L: Hao Xiaopei, Chen Li, Li Juanjuan, Li Peng, Qi Jiancheng, Wang Ling

Reference not given


The Divorce Problem in China


In China, divorce is a growing problem that is affected by complicated issues including personality, traditional values, and childhood experiences. Divorce is a complicated social phenomenon and it is subjected to many factors. According to China Daily (Feb. 16, 2006), personality clashes have become the main cause of marriage dissolution, especially in China’s cities where people are more tolerant to divorces. Secondly, a 2002 survey conducted by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences indicated that extra-marital affairs are another dominate factor. Although great economic achievements have made Shanghainese more modern and open minded, traditional marital ethics (like “no sex outside marriage”) prevail. Furthermore, more and more young people do not treat marriage or relationships seriously, because many of these, belonging to the one-child generation, have been spoiled by their parents and are less prepared for married life. In conclusion, China’s divorce rate is increasing, mostly because of personality clashes, extra-marital affairs and less preparation for married life, but the majority of Chinese couples continue to consider a stable family to be the main priority for a happy life. (178 words)

Group N: Messi, Victor and other names I couldn't read


References: China Daily, Feb 16, 2006 and People’s Daily Online 2002, Nov 23,


Traditional Medicine in Modern China


In modern China, many people still use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) due to benefits such as price and effectiveness, but others have lost confidence in traditional medicine. According to a survey, 90% of Chinese people say they have confidence in TCM, but only 27% will visit a Chinese traditional doctor when they are ill.* Numerous examinations are not needed by TCM practitioners, so poor patients can afford it. Furthermore, compared with western medicine, TCM is easier to face because taking a medicinal drink is easier to accept than undergoing surgery. In China, most people have experienced the magic effect of traditional medicine. However, 10% of the people think that TCM lacks the support of a biological model and that the theory behind it is not clear. Another complaint is the lack of standardization, mainly because TCM practices are handed down from generation to generation, based on a doctor’s experience and not formal training. Some patients have even been cheated by unqualified doctors. In conclusion, people in China still accept Traditional Chinese Medicine because it’s cheap, minimally invasive (微创的) and therapeutic (有疗效的), but some people have lost confidence in traditional medicine because it lacks order, formality (规范) and adequate scientific proof to support itself. (200 words)

Group O: Jack, Nancy, Bao Jibo, Firefly, Cynthia, Jordan



*《中医药报》“Traditional Chinese Medicine Newspaper” (we found this Chinese resource on the Internet, but forgot to record the specific source. )


Computer Use


Unfortunately, Group Q never gave me a "doc" file of their essay.


Conclusion: In conclusion, while people take advantage of the information, exchange, and ease that computers have brought, computer users also need to guard against the ways that irrational Internet use can waste time, casual surfing exposes important information to danger, and prolonged electromagnetic exposure can add serious risks to their health.

Group Q: (No names on the paper)


The Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation


Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) can increase the risk of cancer, damage the human reproductive system, and affect people's visual system, so it has become a great health concern in modern China. EMR sources include radios, mobile phones, microwave ovens, and X-rays. According to Southern Weekend, electromagnetic radiation can induce cell mutation and accelerate the proliferation of cancer cells. The correlation between EMR and childhood leukemia is also a growing concern in the scientific and medical communities. Similarly, breast cancer rates are 7.4 times higher than normal in women who frequently encounter high EMR levels. Secondly, EMR can damage the human reproductive system, especially in women. The incidence of miscarriage is increasing year by year, and an important reason may be the effect of EMR. Finally, concern is growing over the effect of excessive EMR pollution on the eyes. After long hours in front of a computer, workers may suffer from impaired vision, cataracts, and other problems. However, a Wikipedia article says that research on EMR has not been conclusive. For example, it cites a 2007 World Health Organization factsheet that says low frequency electric fields do not pose a health risk “at levels generally encountered by members of the public.” The use of electronics is growing in China, but due to possible links to cancer, miscarriage, and eye damage, everyone needs to follow safety guidelines when manufacturing and using devices that emit electromagnetic radiation. (233 words)

Group S: Mike, Blade, Shine, Sunny, Linda, May



1. Wang Shang, “Electromagnetic radiation is all around you,” Southern Weekend (November 12, 2007)
2. Wikipedia contributors, “Electromagnetic radiation and health,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia (World Wide Web: Wikimedia Foundation Inc., December 6, 2008, visited December 16, 2008) radiation_

Charitable Giving


In Sichuan Province, the government, charities, and volunteer workers had to work together to deal with the serious problem of rescuing injured children after the collapse of Beichuan Middle school due to the recent earthquake. On May 12, 2008, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake flattened most of the houses and schools, including Beichuan Middle School. The government quickly stepped in to organize relief, which included coordinating charitable activity. Medical universities built mobile hospitals nearby, while volunteers joined soldiers to search through the debris, in order to rescue many Beichuan Middle School students. Entrepreneurs also voluntarily donated money and supplied materials such as tents, water, food and medical supplies. With the government coordinating the charitable giving of hospitals, individual volunteers, and generous entrepreneurs, many lives were saved, so the reaction to the Beichuan Middle School catastrophe shows how important it is for the government, charity organizations and volunteers to work together to solve problems. (151 words)


Group B: Michaela, Zhang Min, Kylie, Fan Sheng-tao, Van, Valentino

Reference not given


China's Water Shortage


Both natural and man-made causes have led to a shortage of water resources in China, especially along the Yellow River, but an attitude change could help solve the problem. According to National Geographic magazine, nearly half of China's population lives on only 15 percent of its water. Many people who live in the districts that lack water suffer from poverty and they have few choices: either struggle against the water shortage for their whole lives or leave their cherished hometown and move to districts filled with water. Many causes contribute to this problem. For instance, many water resources are becoming unusable due to pollution or evaporation (due to global warming). Perhaps the most important reason is the growing number of factories, farms, and cities, due to China's remarkable economic boom. These water-related problems can only be solved if the Chinese people--working with the government--become conscious of the need to protect the environment while continuing to develop economically. The increasing temperature, water pollution and over-use of water in modern society, have all caused China to lack water resources; a renewed consciousness of the need to protect the environment in the process of economic development is essential if Chinese people are going to solve the water shortage problem. (208 words)


Group D: Cannon and others (there were no names on the file they gave me)



Brook Larmer, "Bitter Water: Can China save the Yellow--it's Mother River?," National Geographic Magazine (Washington: National Geographic Society, May 2008) Page 133


Air Pollution


In China, air pollution is becoming a serious problem, and exposure to air pollutants is increasing the risk of many diseases. Data from China’s State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) showed that in 559 observed cities in 2006, the air quality is not good; only 4.3% of the cities achieved the top standard, 58% qualified for the second standard, and about 40% of the cities got a sub-standard rating. In 2006, the total consumption of coal reached 219 billion tons, while the total CO2 and SO2 emissions reached 2.68 billion tons, and 25.49 thousand tons respectively. The use of coal, inefficient boilers, and an increased number of cars were responsible for high concentrations of particulate matter in the air. Such a huge amount of emissions is a direct risk factor in deaths, as well as in asthma, bronchitis, lung disease and heart disease. According to the Ministry of Health Supervision Bureau, over 15,000,000 people get bronchitis each year, often as a result of pollution. Children and elderly people are especially vulnerable to such disease. New research shows that air pollution is joining smoking as a cause of lung cancer, especially in women. In summary, dangerous toxic emissions cause most of China's urban residents to breathe unhealthy air, resulting in increased respiratory disease that adds pressure to the country's health care system. (Words 220)

Group F : Nancy, Spring, Linkin, James, Maggie, Annabelle

1. Author unknown, “The map of China’s air pollution”, China’s economy report,
2. Author unknown,




Smoking is a common phenomenon in China that causes harmful effects to people’s health and to the development of society. According to the Hubei Journal of Preventive Medicine, about 27 percent of Chinese people become unhealthy as a result from smoking. In fact, smoking is a main risk factor in developing chronic lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. The WHO also said that all over the world, at least a quarter of all deaths from heart disease and about three quarters of chronic lung diseases were due to smoking in 2001. What’s more, smoking is also an indirect harm to non-smokers. People exposed to second hand smoke (SHS) have been associated with a high risk of disease, especially for pregnant women and children. SHS can also cause sudden infant death syndrome and a small reduction in birth weight. Furthermore, smoking-related disease costs China more than 3.83 billion yuan each year. The money used for providing medical treatment is not available to help develop society. Greater efforts should be made to curb smoking, because this bad habit harms both smokers and non-smokers (especially children), and treating smoking-related illnesses robs the public of funds needed for development. (195 words)

Group G: Yang Hai-xia, Rose, Fish, Dan, Li Cai-xia, Tan Hui-min


(1) Zhu Shaokun, Liang Linying. investigation Ticks and Tick-bitein
Pangquangou Natural Reserve. (J) Hubei Journal of Preventive Medicine, 1995, 6(4):52-59.
(2) Tanja Tomson, Sgeir R. Helgason, Hans Gilljam. Quitline in smoking cessation: a cost effectiveness analysis. [J] International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care, 2004, 20:469-474.
(3) Liu Rui-ling, Jiang Yuan. Review on the global telephone counseling for smoking cessation. [J] Chinese Journal of Health Education, November 2007, Vol. 12, No. 11:850-852.


The Abuse of Antibiotics


The abuse of antibiotics harms many Chinese people, but doctors and government officials are working to help the public understand the rational use of these important drugs. A World Health Organization survey shows that, in Chinese hospitals, the rate of using antibiotics on patients is 58%, much higher than the international average of 30%. Today, more and more people die of infectious diseases each year in China. The increase is due to the difficulty brought by drug-resistant bacteria, caused by the widespread misuse of antibiotics. Some medical experts even warn that human life could come to an end if people continue using antibiotics in an irrational way. Such experts believe the government should make strict laws to prevent people from buying antibiotics so easily. In addition, the government and doctors should work harder to publicize basic facts about the rational use of antibiotics. First, pay strict attention to the instructions for using any drug. For antibiotics, take twice the dose the first time, and be sure to finish the full course of antibiotics. Second, do not use antibiotics if it is not necessary. Third, avoid long-term drug use. In conclusion, China’s overuse of antibiotics has led to an increasing number of deaths due to “super bugs,” so the government and medical professionals need to work together to raise public understanding and limit the abuse of antibiotics. (226 words)

Group I: Toby, Matthew, Xu Li, Yang Pu-juan, Fiona, Wu Xin-tian

Reference not given


Car Craziness Overwhelms China


In recent years, China has become “car crazy”, which has clogged the roads, wasted resources, and added to the pollution problem. An investigation of the National Ministry of Transportation’s reports shows that China now has close to 120,000,000 private cars, the second highest in the world. However, since the pace of road construction is far behind the growth in the number of motor vehicles, traffic jams are inevitable. With private cars clogging the roads, buses and taxis are also slower, increasing almost everyone’s daily commute. Cars also waste China’s resources. Vehicle fuel oil accounts for about 43 percent of the domestic petroleum demand, and the automobile industry consumes about 160 million tons of iron ore annually. Meanwhile, transport energy consumption is one of the main sources of environmental pollution. Pollution is a key factor in global warming, which in turn has been linked to the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters. Harmful automobile emissions can lead to headaches, dizziness, respiratory diseases and even cancer. Transportation issues like traffic jams, wasted resources, and pollution increase the burden on public utilities, while bringing inconvenience and harm to people's lives. (190 words)

Group K: Lizzy, Annie, Apple, Liu Yu, Echo, Julia

Reference not given

Group K shows how long the traffic line will be for the same number of people in a bus, on bicycles, and in private cars. Multiply this by the thousands of people who have switched recently from buses to private cars, and you can understand why Kunming's traffic is getting worse and worse!


Shifting Values on Environmental Issues


Changes in governmental policy, educational shifts, and a greater attention to long-term consequences have led to a shift in Chinese values, especially in the area of environmental protection. To illustrate, first look at a shift in official policy. Twenty-five years ago, the Chinese government put too much emphasis on economic development while neglecting environmental consequences. But in 2003, the Communist Party’s China Central Committee (十六届三中全会) started promoting a more balanced development of the economy, environment and society. Secondly, higher levels of education are also affecting values. In 1949, only 20% of school-age children were in school. Today, the elementary school enrollment rate is over 98%, while junior high enrollment is 90%. Education disseminates new ideas, including a stronger emphasis on taking care of the environment. Finally, values are changing because modern Chinese people are more concerned about the next generation and long-term interests. A focus on short-term development has brought serious damage, including water loss and erosion along the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers (长江、黄河), polluted skies over industrial cities, and a water supply void of living things. The cost of dealing with these problems is so high that people have had to adopt a new way of thinking. Ongoing changes in Chinese values have many causes, as demonstrated by how new governmental policies, educational improvements, and increased public awareness of long-term results have started working together to protect the environment. (244 words)

Group M: Zhong Jian, Lincoln and others (their paper didn’t have names)

Reference not given


Job Placement Challenges for Graduates


High demands, intense competition, and bad habits have made job placement for graduates a growing problem in China. At a job fair in Haikou on September 18, 2008, 316 companies advertised 8800 positions. This attracted over 23 thousand people, but in the end, only 2400 people (about 10%) came to preliminary agreements. One reason that job placement is a problem is because graduates usually have high expectations when looking for a job, especially the salary, while managers prefer to choose experienced and skilled workers. Secondly, as a Peking University professor said: There are enough graduates, but a lack of less educated workers. Due to the fast-growing population and the comprehensive implementation of compulsory education, graduates are so numerous that most business departments have superfluous workers. Finally, since many recent graduates change their jobs frequently, this gives managers a bad impression of those who are fresh out of college. Employers avoid hiring recent grads for fear that recent graduates will leave after being trained. In conclusion, the graduates’ high demands, China’s large population and education system, and the graduates’ frequent job-hopping have made job placement for graduates a growing problem. (189 words)

Group P: Jadyn, Cheng Bo, Cheng Si-xiang, Tracy, Huang Jian


Reference: China University Students Career Guide (2008, 19, ISSN 1009-0576)


Helpful Websites


Group R's reviews of several helpful websites can be found at the bottom of my "Links for Learners" page.

Group R-2008: Gregory, Angela, Atlas, Lacy, Selma, Zhong Xiao-bin, Burk, Tracy



After the devastating May 12 earthquake, volunteers quickly went to Wenchuan to give medical care to injured people, to offer counseling and psychological support and to help victims to rebuild their home. Firstly, volunteers, such as doctors, nurses and medical students, rushed into the quake zone to give medical care. Blood donors queued at blood vehicles, while rescuers were searching for victims trapped under flattened buildings. Tents, food and water poured into Sichuan Province from across the country. Secondly, psychologists served as volunteers to present mental health care. Many refugees were "trapped" in the memory of trying to save themselves, which caused depression. Counselors helped them relieve terrible memories and rebuild their confidence for the future. Thirdly, volunteers cooperated to rebuild the distress area. Tens of billions in cash were donated, and volunteers (including many enthusiastic recent graduates) worked beside soldiers day and night to fix the destroyed buildings. By responding to the earthquake with free medical help, mental health care, money and time, Chinese people demonstrated the important role volunteerism plays in establishing a united "harmonious" society. (178 words)

(Note from Mr. Krigline: “Harmonious” is in quotation marks because, in English, this adjective is not normally used to describe society; it normally describes music, though it is sometimes used figuratively to describe a potentially divisive meeting. I’m not sure what Chinese word people are thinking about when they say “harmonious society”; I’ve heard it often in China, but this translation still sounds unnatural to me.)

Group T: Eileen and others (this group did not give me a "doc" file; and there were no names on the papers I have)



China Daily, 2008, May 20, http/

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