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Survey Sees Fewer Disabled Children
Thanks to improved medicare, the number of disabled in every 1,000 Chinese children has decreased from 17 in 1987 to 13 in 2003.

The figures, released yesterday, are taken from a national survey sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund.

The first of its kind in China, the survey was jointly conducted by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Security, China Disabled Persons' Federation and National Bureau of Statistics.

Deng Pufang, president of the federation, hailed the results.

"Although each year still sees an average addition of 199,000 disabled children in China, the right way for improvement has been pointed out,'' he said.

The survey underlines the effective efforts of the Chinese Government in reducing birth defects, but for many experts nutrition deserves as much attention in ensuring more Chinese children grow up "healthy and smart.''

"The many obese children of today reminds me of the many skinny kids in 1940s; both extremes are worrisome,'' said Hu Yamei, a top Chinese pediatrician.

To identify the seriousness of the problem, the China National Children's Centre has embarked on the country's first special investigation into the nutrition of Chinese children. The investigation is expected to be completed in April.

"The investigation might give us more clear-cut guidance for improvement, but many pediatricians and nutritionists have already agreed upon the necessity of food structure readjustment for kids,'' said Hu.

For example, children need to eat more coarse food grain, such as oats and maize, instead of popped artificial foods with high sugar and gourmet powder content.

Unfortunately for the parents of children between one and three years of age, almost all the foods sold on the Chinese market for their children is popped. The only none-popped coarse food available is Heinz "Growing Up Oats.''

Meanwhile, a recent survey by the China Health Education Association suggests many Chinese children under five years of age suffer from a lack of zinc, iron, iodine and vitamins A and D, and slow growth has reached the alarming rate of 35 per cent.

(China Daily December 23, 2003)

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