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Urbanisation and increasing affluence are causing dire health consequences for China

The number of people living with dementia has more than doubled from about 3.68 million in 1990 to 9.2 million in 2010.

Image: Andy Wong via Press Association Images

THE RAPID ECONOMIC growth of China over the past few decades has resulted in some shocking statistics on death and illness from injuries and chronic diseases, according to a review carried out by the Lancet.

The country has experienced a growth in injuries, mental illness, obesity, smoking, environmental pollution and public health threats.

Injuries cause around 800,000 deaths a year and are the leading cause of death in people aged 1 to 39 years old.

Some 173 million adults have a mental health disorder but the vast majority (92% – 159 million) have never received professional help.

The number of people living with dementia has more than doubled from about 3.68 million in 1990 to 9.2 million in 2010.

Ambient air pollution kills more than 1.2 million people a year, while indoor air pollution from solid fuels accounts for a further 1 million premature deaths a year.

Tobacco kills roughly 1 million people each year, and if present trends continue, this is expected to rise to 3 million by 2040.

Finally, there have been alarming increases in levels of obesity, with the number of overweight or obese adolescents rising from 16.1 million in 2000 to 20.4 million in 2010.

The report found that important advances have been made in expanding health insurance coverage to 96% of the population, but that these increases have not been accompanied by improvements in the health-care delivery system which was described as “wasteful and inefficient”.

Dr Jeffrey Koplan, Vice President for Global Health at Emory University, Atlanta, USA urged China to urgently adopt a number of cost-effective interventions to improve individual and population health, such as; increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol and introducing regulations for seat belts and helmets for cyclists.

Similar to the focus on prevention, which was the hallmark of China’s remarkable success against infectious diseases, its new challenge will be to make this progress in chronic disease control in a much shorter time-frame than high-income countries.

“If China takes advantage of lessons learnt in other countries (including taxation, regulation or legislation, and information or education) and uses its own scientific and creative resources to increase our knowledge of better disease control and prevention, it will provide a health model for the world.”

Read: More than half of the world’s cancer victims live in India, Russia or China>

Read: PHOTOS: No masks in stock as Beijing pollution goes off the charts>

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