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  • Richard Shi

What is Healthcare Like in Rural China?

In the past, humans often died early, sometimes as early as 30 years of age. But since the advent of modernized medicine and widespread healthcare, life expectancy has risen dramatically, all thanks to our modern day healthcare system.

However, healthcare across the world is not always what we take for granted here in America. In places like rural China, adequate healthcare is often in short supply.


Although China’s healthcare system is sometimes considered among the best in the world, that prestige is not shared by every clinic and hospital across the nation. In fact, many—especially those in the less developed rural regions—contain a variety of issues.

Primarily, healthcare in rural China is commonly established with a high patient to doctor ratio. According to the World Health Organization, China only has 19.8 doctors per 10,000 citizens as of 2017. In comparison, the United States had 26.12 doctors per 10,000 people that same year. Other estimates place the ratio even lower, at merely 1 doctor for roughly 7,000 patients. This shortage of doctors greatly hampers China’s responsive ability.

Misdiagnosis and Inaccurate Prescriptions

Yet another issue is the common occurrence of misdiagnosis or incorrect prescriptions of antibiotics. Medical professionals, whether overworked, underfunded, or insufficiently educated, may incorrectly diagnose patients and subsequently prescribed unfitting medications. In fact, one study found that antibiotics were prescribed incorrectly in 42% of test cases.

The implications of this data are numerous. Primarily, China’s healthcare may not be able to adequately respond to other more subtle health issues, especially if even diagnosis and prescription capabilities are not sufficiently developed. For example, a widespread and commonly overlooked health issue is the persistent high rate of anemia in rural China.

Furthermore, due to the high rates of antibiotic use, many diseases in China have developed antibiotic resistance and could cause further harm. Beyond these, who knows what other problems may arise? Altogether, misdiagnosis and inaccurately prescribed medication are symptoms of an ill-equipped healthcare system.


Compounding the many other problems healthcare faces in China, rural areas often have fewer, poorer, and even less adequate clinics. Studies of healthcare access and utilization, rural vs urban mortality rates, and healthcare reforms all suggest that rural areas in China have less access to healthcare, and the care they do receive is often of poor quality.

These fewer clinics, often staffed with fewer medical professionals— the majority of them less educated or trained than doctors in urban hospitals—and lacking in equipment and technology, make finding care especially difficult for people living in rural areas. Though policies encourage “barefoot doctors” (doctors, nurses, farmers, soldiers, etc. who have received minimum basic training) to provide care in rural villages, there still exists an inequality in the accessibility of healthcare.

All in all, the inequality in accessibility of often inadequate healthcare poses a problem for the health and safety of the average student in rural China. To ensure that education and self-fulfillment are met, we must first address the more basic physiological needs of health.

And to do that, the rural China's ailing healthcare system itself must first be cured.

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