Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chinese Update: Smoking, Air Pollution Major Health Threats in China (16 Apr 2013)

Smoking, Air Pollution Major Health Threats in China

Chinese and international medical experts have warned that second-hand smoke and air pollution are among the major health threats in China.

The scientists listed unhealthy diet, uncontrolled high blood pressure,environmental tobacco smoke and outdoor and indoor air pollution as the five leading health risks facing the Chinese population, according to a statement issued at the opening ceremony of the Evidence-Based Policy Dialogue: China and the Global Burden of Diseases symposium on Monday. 

Their comments were based on the new findings of a collaborative study conducted by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), Peking Union Medical College (PUMC), the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and Australia's Queensland University.

The study tracked disease-, disability- and demographic-related health trends in China over the two decades from 1990 and 2010.

Air pollution is dangerous, as it triggers infectious diseases, cardiovascular disorders and cancers, and the prevalence of these diseases in China is rising, the statement said.
Moreover, compared to most of the G20 countries, these threats are particularly serious in China, it said.
The experts also underlined efforts to cope with chronic diseases.

"Although final study results have yet to be confirmed, initial findings indicate that while China has achieved marked success in improving life expectancy and reducing death and illness caused by infectious disease, the challenge of non-communicable diseases has grown, as has the number of years Chinese people live affected by chronic disease and disability," read the statement.

"It should be noted that although the spread of infectious diseases such as SARS and the current H7N9 bird flu draws most of the public's attention, the biggest disease burden for Chinese people actually comes from non-communicable and chronic diseases, and the threat is mounting," said Yang Gonghuan, a professor with the China CDC and the PUMC. 

Liu Yuanli, another PUMC professor, also warned that compared with the achievements in coping with infectious diseases, China still has a long way to go in terms of information-collecting measures and the prevention and control of the inducing factors of non-infectious and chronic diseases.

Moreover, Richard Horton, editor of the medical journal the Lancet, advised China to better detect and manage people's health risks and formulate a national program to address the threats.

Horton also stressed measures to develop healthy personal behaviors among citizens, as these behaviors are largely shaped by society.

Despite efforts to continue to control disease, China faces challenges of increasing concern regarding people's well-being and mental health, he added.

The Chinese government has made great efforts in controlling chronic diseases, but, unfortunately, the results are not satisfying, Yang said.

A more effective solution should include efforts to improve neighborhood clinics, train medical workers, streamline the healthcare system and enhance public awareness, Yang said.

Experts also noted that measures to deal with chronic diseases should not be confined to the medical field, but should also involve other sectors such as housing, social welfare, employment, city planning, industry, environment, education and media.

The two-day symposium was co-organized by the PUMC, the IHME, the Lancet and the U.S.-based China Medical Board.

Medical scientists and policy makers will hold discussions on issues regarding the changes and current situation of the burden of diseases in China and their implications for health policies.

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