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Rural Kids Need Better Healthcare

More money must be invested in China's healthcare system to ensure children receive effective medical treatment, an official from the Ministry of Health said yesterday.
Shortage of funds is the main reason for the lack of medical treatment for rural children, said Zhang Xun, vice-director of the Department of Maternal and Child Healthcare and Community Health under the ministry.
In 2003, half of rural infants, aged five and under, who died from diseases, did not receive hospital treatment before they died, according to a report submitted earlier this week to a conference focusing on the situation of Women and Children in China.
More than a fifth of the dead infants received no medical treatment at all before their deaths and more than 28 percent received only cursory diagnosis and treatment at outpatients departments, but were not admitted to hospital.
The survey was carried out in 116 counties covering a population of 12 million people.
Zhang was unable to provide more up-to-date figures on infant mortality, but said a report covering 2004 is expected to be published in the coming weeks.
The main causes of infant deaths are premature birth, low birth weight, suffocation during birth, and pneumonia, Zhang said.
A major reason for death during childbirth in rural areas is that families cannot afford to pay for babies to be delivered in hospital, she added.
Poverty also means families cannot afford treatment if their children become ill.
On the Chinese mainland, at least 70 percent of rural residents, including women and children, currently have no medical insurance.
Zhang called on the central government to provide free medical care allowing rural mothers to give birth in hospital.
Infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, are also threatening the health of children, Jiang Zuojun, vice-minister of health, told the national conference.
Mother-to-infant transmission has become a major channel for the spread of HIV, Jiang said.
To curb mother-to-infant transmission, 170,000 pregnant women across five provinces and regions have received HIV testing in a pilot program, said Jiang.
The five regions are Henan, Yunnan and Guangdong provinces, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health yesterday denied reports of a nationwide outbreak of anthrax, saying the disease has been under regular monitoring since Tuesday.
"Starting monitoring in some regions does not mean anthrax is breaking out in these regions. We are monitoring other infectious diseases as well," a media coordinator of the ministry's information office said.

(China Daily August 18, 2005)

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