Health care reform coordinator for China details progress, challenges

SUN Zhigang, national coordinator of health reform for China

SUN Zhigang, national coordinator of health reform for China

June 25, 2012 — China has made remarkable progress with its three-year-old health care reform effort—more than 95% of the population now has health coverage, according to SUN Zhigang, national coordinator of health care reform for China and vice chairman of the country’s National Development and Reform Commission. But there remain some tough problems that need to be addressed.

SUN spoke to a large crowd in Snyder Auditorium on June 8, 2012. His talk followed up on the dialogue that began in September 2011 at the Harvard America-China Health Summit, an effort aimed at promoting communication and collaboration between the two countries regarding the common goal of health for all. Both the summit and SUN’s talk were sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) China Initiative.

SUN discussed several major issues that Chinese health officials hope to address. For one, there aren’t enough doctors in rural areas. SUN said it’s important to offer doctors incentives to work outside of the cities to boost health care access among the entire population.

Another problem is that Chinese doctors both prescribe and dispense drugs—and get kickbacks for prescribing certain ones, so they tend to over-prescribe to make more income. SUN said it’s crucial to separate the two functions. In the future, he said, it is hoped that Chinese doctors will be rewarded for doing a good job—not just for prescribing more drugs.

–Karen Feldscher

Learn more

China and U.S. Health Leaders Convene at HSPH (Harvard Public Health Review)