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The 2008 Milk Scandal Revisited

by Yanzhong Huang
A woman holding a baby stands in front of a shelf displaying milk powder products at a supermarket in Beijing May 20, 2013. (Kim Kyung Hoon/Courtesy Reuters) A woman holding a baby stands in front of a shelf displaying milk powder products at a supermarket in Beijing May 20, 2013. (Kim Kyung Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Six years ago today, sixteen infants in China’s Gansu Province were diagnosed with kidney stones. All of them had been fed milk powder that was later found to have been adulterated with a toxic industrial compound called melamine. Four months later, an estimated 300,000 babies in China were sick from the contaminated milk, and the kidney damage led to six fatalities. The Sanlu Group, one of the largest dairy producers in China, was identified as the chief culprit. But as the scandal unfolded, more Chinese dairy firms became implicated. Read more »

Susan Hubbard: East Asia Regional Cooperation on Global Health

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang

Susan Hubbard is a senior associate at the Japan Center for International Exchange where she focuses primarily on global health and human security issues.

In the spirit of the current World Cup mania, I am reminded of the historic decision that Korea and Japan made to combine their competing bids to host the 2005 World Cup. By doing so, they successfully won the bid, and the World Cup was cohosted by two countries for the first and only time in its history. The idea for combining the bids was originally proposed in 1995 at a meeting of the Korea-Japan Forum, a track 2 dialogue organized by the Japan Center for International Exchange and the Korea Foundation. The decision came at a time when the two countries were in a fierce battle over issues dealing with history and territory. But the games allowed the people of both countries to turn their attention away from geopolitical tensions and focus instead on their shared interests. Read more »

China Should Be Concerned by Overuse of Cesarean Sections

by Yanzhong Huang
Yang Huiqing looks at her baby after a cesarean section in Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai Yang Huiqing looks at her baby after a cesarean section in Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

For those who were born in the Chinese countryside in the 1970s, the story of my birth—as my mother used to tell me—is not atypical. When the labor pains began, my mom sent my siblings to the local midwife asking her to come and deliver the baby at home.  Few people then heard of cesarean section (C-section)—the delivery of a baby through one or more incisions in the mother’s belly and uterus. In fact, only about 10 percent of children in China were born through C-section. Read more »

E-Cigarettes: China’s Next Growth Industry

by Yanzhong Huang
E-Cigarette Production Facility in Shenzhen, China Electronic cigarettes are pictured at a production line in a factory in Shenzhen, China (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters)

Amidst the growing global regulation on tobacco use and rising public awareness about the hazards of smoking, e-cigarettes are becoming a new, emerging industry. Invented by a Chinese medical researcher about one decade ago, electronic cigarettes are battery powered devices that allow users simulate smoking by vaporizing liquid nicotine (among other additives), but in fact have no tobacco. Since being first released on the consumer market in 2005, the global e-cigarette market has been growing rapidly. In the United States, e-cigarette sales have grown at an annual rate of 115 percent in the 2009-12 period. It is estimated that global e-cigarette market could increase to $10 billion by 2017. Some analysts even predict that e-cigarette use will eclipse that of combustible cigarettes in ten years. Over 95 percent of the e-cigarettes worldwide are produced in one place: Shenzhen, China. Read more »

A Tale of Two Diseases: Tuberculosis Control and Malaria Eradication in China

by Yanzhong Huang
China's first lady Peng Liyuan attends an event for World Tuberculosis Day in Dongguan, Guangdong province. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) China's first lady Peng Liyuan attends an event for World Tuberculosis Day in Dongguan, Guangdong province. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Last month, the World Health Organization declared that China has achieved the Millennium Development Goals target of reversing tuberculosis (TB) incidence by 2015.  According to a recent study published by the Lancet, between 1990 and 2010, China more than halved the prevalence of smear-positive TB. The achievement prompted the WHO representative in China to note that “over the last 20 years, China has been the single country that has shown the biggest gains in TB control in the world.” The Lancet piece attributes China’s success in TB control to the government’s commitment to the WHO-recommended program called directly observed therapy, short course or DOTS. What the article failed to note was the important role played by other international agencies such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the largest international health cooperation program in China. Read more »

The Global Fund’s China Legacy

by Yanzhong Huang
A doctor draws blood from the neck of a patient at an emergency room of a hospital in Shanghai May 15, 2013. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters) A doctor draws blood from the neck of a patient at an emergency room of a hospital in Shanghai May 15, 2013. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, twelve African countries met in Windhoek, Namibia to discuss the new funding model of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria. With its emphasis on actual disease burden and flexibility, the launch of the new funding model put the final nail in the coffin of the old approach, which allocates grants based on the need of individual countries and the quality of each proposal. Indeed, even prior to the unveiling of the new funding model, the Global Fund had made China and several other G20 upper-middle income countries ineligible due to their “less than an extreme disease burden.” China, which began receiving Global Fund support in 2003, quickly became one of the Global Fund’s largest recipients. This decision hit China hard, as China had been expecting to be eligible for some $880 million in grant renewals during the 2012-16 period. Since China also decided to forego transitional funding from the Global Fund, the Fund officially closed its portfolio in China rather unceremoniously at the end of 2013. Read more »

What Money Failed to Buy: The Limits of China’s Healthcare Reform

by Yanzhong Huang
A man walks past Chinese national flags tied to iron fences at Chaoyang Hospital. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) A man walks past Chinese national flags tied to iron fences at Chaoyang Hospital. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

In 2009, China unveiled plans to invest $124 billion to launch its healthcare reform. Four years later, the government has actually spent more than $371 billion. The central government has spent $100 billion on funding programs related to healthcare insurance, public health, public hospitals reform, and strengthening community healthcare institutions alone. Read more »

Sex Has Become the Main Mode of HIV Transmission in China

by Yanzhong Huang
Sex shops with neon signs are seen at a wealthy district in Beijing May 6, 2013 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters) Sex shops with neon signs are seen at a wealthy district in Beijing May 6, 2013 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Fifteen years ago, in light of the rapid spread of the HIV cases and the absence of effective government response, UN officials warned that China could have over 10 million HIV cases by 2010.  Thankfully, that prophesy was not fulfilled.  In fact, China today has an estimated 780,000 people living with HIV/AIDS.  The adult prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS is only 0.1 percent, the same as Japan’s and less than the United Kingdom’s (0.2 percent) and the United States’ (0.6 percent).  Comparatively, in 2010, China had 36,200 AIDS-related deaths—the same number of people die annually as a result of seasonal flu in the United States—compared to 1.7 million who died of stroke and nearly 1 million who died of heart disease. Read more »

Watch Out for the H10N8 Avian Flu

by Yanzhong Huang
Employees dispose of uninfected dead birds at a treatment plant as part of preventive measures against the H7N9 bird flu in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on April 16, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Employees dispose of uninfected dead birds at a treatment plant as part of preventive measures against the H7N9 bird flu in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on April 16, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

SARS, H5N1, and H7N9. Over the past 10 years, China has earned its reputation as the epicenter of major disease outbreaks. Now, while the country is still concerned about the return of H7N9, another virus has emerged. On Wednesday a 73-year-old woman from the landlocked southeastern Jiangxi Province, who died of respiratory failure on December 6, was confirmed by the China CDC to be infected with the H10N8 avian flu. Read more »

Rising Violence Against Doctors in China

by Yanzhong Huang
People wait in line at a counter for medical services at the Guanganmen Chinese medicine hospital for treatment in Beijing. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters) People wait in line at a counter for medical services at the Guanganmen Chinese medicine hospital for treatment in Beijing. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

Practicing medicine in China has become an even more high-risk business. In ten days in October, China reported at least six attacks on healthcare workers. In the most recent case, a man, unhappy with the results of an operation, fatally stabbed a doctor and wounded two others in a hospital of Zhejiang province. Rising violence against healthcare workers has not only discouraged doctors in China from adopting medically necessary but risky procedures, but also—in conjunction with the problem of doctors’ low base salaries—provided strong disincentives for practicing medicine in China. According to a survey carried out by the Chinese Hospital Association (CHA), 29 percent of the healthcare workers prefer self-protecting medical procedures, 40 percent are considering changing professions, and 78 percent do not want their children to become a healthcare professional in the future. Read more »