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Chinese health coverage increases with new government efforts
Date:12/5/2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] -- Health care coverage increased dramatically in parts of China between 1997 and 2006, a period when government interventions were implemented to improve access to health care, with particularly striking upswings in rural areas, according to new research by Brown University sociologist Susan E. Short and Hongwei Xu of the University of Michigan. The findings appear in the December issue of Health Affairs.

Led by Xu, a former Brown graduate student, the study analyzed data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey, which follows households in nine provinces that are home to more than 40 percent of China's population. Xu and Short specifically focused on patterns of coverage among rural and urban residents.

Their analysis shows that overall, the percentage of individuals in the sample with insurance increased from 24 percent in 1997 to 28 percent in 2004, then rose sharply to 49 percent in 2006. Furthermore, during that period, rural and urban levels of insurance coverage became more similar. Xu and Short call the increase in rural areas "nothing short of dramatic," saying that it likely benefited millions of rural Chinese residents.

"There's been great concern about increasing inequality in China, and particularly urban-rural inequalities," said Short, professor of sociology and faculty associate of Brown's Population Studies and Training Center. "This work shows that at least in one sphere health insurance coverage urban-rural inequality may be decreasing."

Location matters

The analysis revealed that levels and trends of health care coverage were significantly different depending on whether the individuals lived in urban or rural areas. In villages, the coverage rates declined from 1997 to 2000, while rates changed little in suburbs, cities, and towns during the same period. Notably, during that time, the government's efforts to establish a new rural insurance pro
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Contact: Deborah Baum
deborah_baum@brown.edu
401-863-2478
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

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