Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Friday, 28 December 2007
Saturday, 29 December 2007 00:14

Healthcare in China today

China faces several emerging healthcare challenges, among them are:
- Diseases linked to air pollution and cigarettes: respiratory illnesses are now the first cause of mortality.
- HIV-epidemic: in January 2006, according to a joint estimation by the Chinese government, WHO and UNAIDS, there were 650 000 HIV-infected people in China.
- The pressing necessity to build a healthcare system that better caters for the needs of rural areas and the urban poor.
In 2006, 80% of medical resources were concentrated in cities.

From the eighties on, costs of medical treatment have increased, while rural health coverage has decreased as economic reforms have yielded priority to market mechanisms.

In 2003, 80% of the rural population was not covered by any insurance. Furthermore, 120 million workers going from the countryside to the cities were excluded from the public health care insurance system. Several studies show that at least 30% of Chinese people refuse to be hospitalized because of financial costs.

The Public Health Insurance

Chinese Public Health Insurance reforms started in 1998. It mainly covers big enterprises’ employees in the cities and is financed out of "welfare funds".

The public health insurance is slowly covering more and more of the urban population. Over the past years, the government has decided to extend it to the self-employed and the migrant workers. Between 1998 and 2006, the number of urbanites covered by the public health insurance system increased sevenfold. However by the end of 2006, only 160 million of the 500 million urban residents were covered.

The public health insurance system is supposed to cover all urban residents by 2012.

The New Rural Cooperative Medical Care System (NRCMCS)

Since 2003, cooperatives has subsidised health insurance for rural households who now voluntarily pay a contribution of 10 RMB (1.28 $US) per person and per year. The enrollees can have between 20% and 60% of their healthcare costs reimbursed but they have to pay first their costs.

By the end of 2006, the government was allocating 4.23 billion RMB to the NRCMCS. In March 2007, 410 million of rural residents were covered (i.e. 50.7% of the rural population). The government expects the NRCMS to cover 100% of the rural population by 2010.

A balance between the market (private insurance) and the State has not been found yet. In a time of environmental diseases and risks of pandemics, the Chinese healthcare system remains fragile.

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Friday, 28 December 2007 23:08

Faces from Recôncavo

These images present a view of Recôncavo, a very important place from the State of Bahia( Brazil ) for its particular cultural expressions, specially its typical music, parties and food. This region is a kind of miniature of the whole brazilian culture, where Indians, Africans and Europeans form a kaleidoscope of many different colors, many different faces, the faces from Recôncavo.

Pictures: Fábio Bito Caraciolo and Tássia Novaes
Music: Inspiração Divina (by José Ricardo da Silva)

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Friday, 28 December 2007 20:17

Millennium Goals or Global Warming?

The struggle against global warming has taken a new dimension during the year 2007. Though many concrete decisions remain to be agreed upon and implemented, financial and human investments are sure to increase dramatically during the years to come so as to tackle an unparalleled challenge. This is good news indeed. At the same time, this evolution reflects a shift in global consciousness that might bear some preoccupying counter-effects. Around 2000, the Millennium Goals were sketching a roadmap, the focal point of which was the elimination of extreme poverty for 2025. It was apparent enough that humankind had the means and the know-how for achieving what, in other times, would have seemed like an impossible dream.

Struggle against poverty is still very much on the agenda. At the same time, mobilization has been far below what is deemed necessary for achieving such a lofty goal. And we might now witness a subtle trade-off between two objectives: eradicating poverty and alleviating global warming. For sure, the two goals are not contradictory per se, they are even mutually reinforcing: eradicating poverty will prove to be impossible if natural disasters caused by climatic changes occur in Africa or impoverished Asian coastlines. Deforestation and water depletion diminish the meager capital that many populations have to rely upon for earning an income. However, international credit allocation obeys to bargaining laws and power games, and these games might actually benefit rising developing nations rather than the ones suffering from extreme poverty – the latest counting for around one sixth of the world’s population. Developing nations contribute to the rise in carbon emissions and rely on highly polluting technologies: subsidies for cleaning up the environment will go primarily to them. When poverty is such that you do not contribute to greenhouses emissions you might be left out of the new distribution mechanisms of global subsidies… Global warming would such become a pretext for developed nations to spread and sell their technologies, and for middle—income nations to profit from an array of international subsidies.

World governance is still suffering from a lack of comprehensive mechanisms that would allow people to arbitrate between priorities and policy choices. Still, from now on, the struggle against poverty and the one against global warming must be conceived and implemented together rather than risking to become, even partly, a kind of trade-off – in which case the losers of the game would be, once again, the poorest of the poor. This shows that the struggle against global warming cannot be considered as a mere technical challenge bur rather as a political and humanist endeavor. It is not enough of a Al Gore for tackling the issue. We also need a Gandhi who would remind us of the humane, social and spiritual issues at stake.

Photo by Liang Zhun

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