China Renews Focus on Rare Diseases in its Sweeping Healthcare Goals

China has been making waves lately, improving its efforts to efficiently and effectively provide healthcare for its nearly 1.5 billion population.

“Health is a prerequisite for people’s all-round development and a precondition for economic and social development.”

These words are from President Xi Jinping in an address to the senior leaders of his Chinese Communist Party in August 2016. Since then, he’s worked to make good on those words, introducing the “Healthy China 2030” road map– the most ambitious illustration of China’s efforts to reform its healthcare system.

In the last 20 years, China has made great strides — by investing massively in its health facilities, raising the skills level of its health workers, and moving closer to universal health coverage, thanks to the expansion of government-funded basic medical insurance.

When “Rare” Isn’t So Rare

In a country inching toward 1.5 billion people, “rare” translates to millions of people who suffer from these diseases– while each individual condition is rare, as a group, they’re prominent. It’s estimated that up to 20 million Chinese people suffer from a rare condition.

So China is making rare diseases a priority.

Just this February, Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang called for further engagement in the fight against rare diseases. And China slashed its value-added tax rate for some rare disease medicines, to better accelerate the launch of new treatments and incentivize development.

Technology and big data will also be leveraged. Chinese authorities are working to establish databases to better understand the current epidemiology as well as research for future treatments.

Earlier this year, China established a national computerized system to register diagnosis and treatment information on rare diseases, and tech is being used to promote research on the diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases.

What it Means for the World

While all meaningful change is slow and steady, these are strong actions that are moving not just China forward, but the global effort toward understanding and treating rare diseases.

So as China makes these leaps, the world is watching and learning. After all, treatments and therapies that work for Chinese people impact patients in Austria or Canada or Morocco. Rare diseases know no border or race or nationality.

And if China’s processes and technologies prove successful, then it’s only a matter of time that others (including us!) will take note and adapt.

To read more about Healthy China 2030 – click here.

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