China’s Community Health Services are a Model for the World
The Yuetan Community Health Centre is nestled on a narrow lane in an old residential part of central Beijing, China. Its yard is packed with bicycles, rather than cars—an indication that the centre is serving people close to where they live.
“Through our centre and nine affiliated community health stations, we provide services to 150 000 people living in the Yuetan area,” said Du Xue Ping, Director of Yuetan Community Health Centre. “In addition to providing medicine, we also undertake health promotion, encouraging people to lead a healthy life. We know that prevention is far better than cure.”
The centre blends state-of-the-art Chinese medicine and Western medicine, serving 420 000 patients annually. It supports the community’s rapidly ageing population, overseeing two senior homes and staff who conduct home visits for seniors and people with mobility problems.
The facility is part of China’s highly regarded multitiered medical system, which has successfully brought life-saving services to people across the country. In this system, major diseases are handled in large hospitals and routine services are treated in community health centres. According to Chinese data, in 2015 there were more than 34 000 similar community health clinics providing essential health services to 706 million people in China. “Community health centres are the first line of defence in protecting people’s health,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “The family-centred interface and clear bond between staff and patients exemplifies people-to-people connections.”
Mr Sidibé visited the community health centre to learn more about its holistic and comprehensive approach and how China’s community health system could help to inform the 2 million community health workers initiative, which was recently endorsed by the African Union.
In the 1970s, China’s “barefoot” or village doctors dramatically improved access to health care in rural communities and were an inspiration to many other countries. China exported the model, sending teams of doctors and nurses to Africa.
“I know from my own personal experience the contributions China has made to primary health care in Africa,” said Mr Sidibé. “A Chinese doctor provided crucial medical services to people in my village in Mali when I was growing up.”
“The world can learn a lot from the Chinese experience,” said Mr Sidibé. “I am very impressed by the professionalism I witnessed here today.”