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Mum & Child Healthcare Still Insufficient

China's maternal and child mortality rates have almost halved in the past 15 years, but experts say the nation still lags behind developed countries, and even some other developing countries.

A review of the maternal and child survival strategy, conducted for the first time since 1949, was made public yesterday.

The Ministry of Health, the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities jointly completed the review last November after 18 months of research.

A total of 890 million women and children lived in China by the end of last year, the review showed, nearly two thirds of the nation's total population.

The health of women and children has always been a priority for the nation and the government has made great progress in promoting the survival and development of women and children and reducing maternal and child mortality, the review said.

China's maternal mortality and under-five mortality rates fell from 80 per 100,000 live births and 61 per 1,000 live births respectively in 1991 to 48 per 100,000 live births and 26 per 1,000 live births in 2004.

But the current rates still lag far behind those of developed countries, as well as some other developing countries. Experts said mother and child healthcare is not adequate.

They also pointed to great disparities in mothers' and children's health.

Meanwhile, the market-oriented approach for providing mother and child health services conflicts with the public function of the services.

The review called for mother and child health services to be prioritised and guaranteed by the government. Developing rural areas are expected to become the focus for new mother and child healthcare spending.

Unveiling the review, Vice-Minister of Health Jiang Zuojun said yesterday at a news conference that the government will make full use of the conclusions it drew and advice it gave to enhance health standards for mothers and children.

"This is an important factor in building a harmonious society," he said.

Henk Bekedam, World Health Organization representative in China, said: "Maternal and child health are the foundations of economic and social development."

(China Daily January 12, 2007)

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