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China Launches US$50 Mln Rural Health Project

An over US$50 million pilot project to improve public health in rural areas was announced in Beijing on Monday.

The pilot program is designed to seek ways for the improvement of rural health services and sustained improvement of health level of local people, according to the Ministry of Health.

"The medical service and health care system in rural areas is facing severe challenges and needs to be improved," said Chen Xiaohong, Vice Ministry of Health, citing week medical service capability, shabby medical facilities and lack of medical instrument and professionals.

He added that China's investment in rural health care was inadequate and unbalanced compared with urban areas.

The World Bank loaned China US$50 million for the Chinese Rural Health Development program. Another five million pounds was offered by the United Kingdom.

The country's Ministry of Finance is responsible for paying off 80 percent of the loan. Provincial departments of finance would undertake the remaining 20 percent.

The Ministry of Health did not say when it will begin the program but once it starts it will be carried out in 40 counties in five years.

Those counties are in eight provinces and municipalities, including Shanxi Province, Shaanxi Province, Qinghai Province, Heilongjiang Province, Gansu Province, Jiangsu Province, Henan Province and Chongqing municipality.

(Xinhua News Agency October 21, 2008)

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