Health summit focuses on China

Updated: 2011-09-20 10:57

By Ariel Tung (China Daily)

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NEW YORK - Harvard University, with help from the Chinese Ministry of Health and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, will hold its first annual Harvard America-China Health Summit on Wednesday and Thursday.

The summit is expected to gather more than 500 health policymakers, experts and leaders from NGOs and the health industry from both China and the US, said Liu Yuanli, founding director of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) China Initiative that is responsible for organizing the summit.

Health summit focuses on China
Chen Zhu is China's minister of health.

This year marks the third year since China reformed its healthcare system to provide universal health insurance by 2020. For the US, this is the second year since the country passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to expand access to coverage to close to 32 million Americans by 2014.

Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu and Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, will be two of the keynote speakers at the event.

The summit aims to establish an understanding of major health industry challenges and opportunities in China, the US and around the world. The conference will cover four major topics: healthcare system reform, public health (addressing chronic diseases), human resources in the industry and new technologies.

The HSPH China Initiative is a collaboration between the Chinese Ministry of Health and Tsinghua University. It has been carrying out research on China's healthcare reforms since 2005.

"We want to bring Harvard's strengths to bear on helping meet some of China's urgent needs in health sector reforms and development," said Liu, who worked on Healthy Beijing 2020 to develop China's first 10-year plan for combating diseases and improving public health.

The HSPH China Initiative was created in the aftermath of the SARS crisis, which served as a wakeup call to deficiencies in China's healthcare system, Liu said.

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Today, an aging population and diseases pose some of the biggest challenges in China's healthcare system.

He said that China can learn from the US' healthcare challenges by not letting private insurance play a dominant role.

"America is the world's highest health are spender (more than 17 percent GDP). Yet, its health status and insurance coverage is poor relative to its income. This inefficiency and inequity problem stems largely from the fragmented nature of its healthcare system - healthcare is mainly financed by profit-seeking private insurance schemes," he said.

"On the other hand, America is the most innovative country in the world. China can learn and adopt some of the useful American inventions."

Liu said there is no doubt that China will effectively carry out its reform of its healthcare system.