View Full Version : As China Prospers, It Is More Unhealthy

09-15-2011, 10:46 AM
As China prospers, it is more unhealthy

Heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease have replaced hepatitis, diarrhea and malaria as desk work replaces farming, cars replace bicycles and smoking remains popular.


The Associated Press

BEIJING During a recent weekday lunch, middle-aged Wu Zhixin had a plate of shredded pork noodles glistening with oil and washed it down with a paper cup of vodka-like alcohol. She then lit a cigarette.

"No smoking," a waitress called out. Wu nodded, but finished her Double Happiness brand cigarette before stubbing it out on the tiled floor.

Such scenes are typical and illustrate the challenges China faces in tackling the explosion of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, two top killers here.

"I smoke because I work in sales and it helps me cope with the stress of meeting targets," said Wu, a slightly overweight woman who smiles warmly but has stained teeth. "I know it is bad for me, and I'm trying to quit, but I'm still very healthy now, and I'm optimistic about my future."

Newly prosperous, China is facing a very changed health picture from a generation ago when it still was largely poor and agrarian and the diseases plaguing Chinese have changed, too.

Heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease have replaced hepatitis, diarrhea and malaria as desk work replaces farming, cars replace bicycles and smoking remains stubbornly popular.

Chronic diseases account for more than 80 percent of deaths in China, or nearly 8 million in 2008, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Compared with the United States, China has three times the death rate from respiratory diseases such as emphysema. By another measure, Chinese are healthier, with only one-quarter of the population overweight, compared to two-thirds of Americans.

Chronic diseases are costly. The World Bank estimated in a July report that reducing the death rate of cardiovascular disease conditions that cause heart attacks and strokes by 1 percent a year over three decades could generate an economic value equivalent to 68 percent of China's GDP last year, or about $10.7 trillion.

China's breakneck economic development over the past 30 years has pulled hundreds of millions out of poverty and moved many people into cities. But a broken health-care system and inadequate state insurance mean treatments for serious diseases can impoverish many families. Unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles have helped accelerate an explosion in chronic diseases.

Lu Nanxu, 28, a programmer at an IT services company in Beijing, knows he needs to exercise and eat less to shed some of the 215 pounds on his 5-foot, 8-inch frame that categorizes him as obese, but he doesn't.

"I have plenty of time to exercise, but I'm too lazy," he said with a sheepish grin. "When I finish work, I prefer to go home and surf the Internet or watch movies on my computer."

Lu said he used to be a competitive ice skater as a child in Harbin, a city in frigid northeastern China, but he stopped exercising as an adult.

"It's not only exercise, but I would have to control my eating and that can be very difficult," he said.

A high-salt diet also is a major problem in China. Experts believe high blood pressure is the leading preventable risk factor tied to stroke and heart attack. On average, the Chinese consume twice as much salt as the recommended maximum set by the WHO, according to Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the organization's food-safety expert in Geneva.

Unlike in the United States, where salt usually is consumed through processed foods such as bacon, cheese and fast food, the high sodium intake in China comes from the liberal use of soy and oyster sauces and the flavor-enhancer MSG, which is added to soups, stews, instant noodles and other foods. The popularity of pickled mustard greens, cabbage, radish and other vegetables also contributes.

The average Chinese person consumes 0.4 ounce of salt a day, compared with Americans, who eat 0.3 ounces, Embarek said. "We believe that it's one of the places where if you can reduce it just a little bit, not even down to the maximum recommended level, but just a little bit, you will swiftly see a positive impact in public health."

Another big killer is smoking, linked to 1 million deaths in China every year. More than one-quarter of Chinese adults smoke, roughly 350 million people a number about equal to the entire U.S. population.

In May, China tried to ban smoking in indoor public places. But in a country where half of all male doctors smoke and cigarettes are commonly presented as gifts, such restrictions usually are ignored.

Beijing restaurants are reluctant to turn away customers who light up. The Beijing Capital International Airport became the first in China to go smoke-free this spring, three years after all public venues were supposed to for the Olympics.

At China's top cancer hospital, the Cancer Institute and Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in southeastern Beijing, large no-smoking signs are prominently displayed on every floor, and the rule appears to be strictly observed. But people light up in waiting rooms and along corridors outside wards in many county hospitals.

After decades of underfunding the health-care system, China recently poured $124 billion into building hospitals and expanding state insurance coverage, but there are still many for whom a serious chronic illness such as cancer can wipe out a family's life savings.

After only one round of chemotherapy, Wang Yuanjin, 25, fears he won't have enough money to continue the treatment that is keeping his leukemia at bay. He was working a summer job before starting postgraduate studies at a university when he was diagnosed several weeks ago with the disease.

The disease already has cost his family 110,000 yuan ($17,200). That has forced his parents, soybean and wheat farmers from Henan who make about 10,500 yuan ($1,600) a year, to borrow from relatives and friends. Only about one-third of the total so far likely will be reimbursed by state health insurance, Wang estimates.

The cost of treating leukemia is so high that some of those diagnosed simply give up on treatment. Wang has moved into a tiny room near the hospital and is writing a blog seeking donations for a bone-marrow transplant. The cost: 600,000 yuan, or $94,000.

Doug Rozenek
09-15-2011, 11:31 AM
Sounds a little bit like the trade-off involved with taking almost any modern meds.
Take brand X to relieve allergies... may cause bloating, acne, loss of hair, excessive flatulance, easy bruising, etc and in some rare cases death.

09-15-2011, 11:59 AM
Chinese are notorious smokers, the other lifestyle diseases are catching up.

I think their idea is to grab everything now in the way of Middle Kingdom - only not just Asia, more of world's wealth.

They were called the "sick man of Asia"(economy) before this last REAL "Great Leap Forward" ( Mao's 10 year plans).

Get enough wealth, they'll be able to pay for their sickness.

Still after centuries of colonialzation/revolution/poverty, they're in much better shape then before.

Don't see famine in Chine like we used to.

09-15-2011, 12:26 PM
Racial Characteristics:
Hordes of incomprehensible rat-eaters with a peculiar political philosophy and a dangerous penchant for narcotic drugs. No one can possibly know what dark and grotesque things pass through the minds of this hydraheaded racial anomaly which is, after all, more like a monstrous colony of flesh-crazed carpenter ants than a nation of rational men. Only a fool would deal with two-legged insects ..such as these. Our only hope is that the farsighted leaders of our own land Will join with those of at least nominally Caucasian Soviet Russia and that together they will treat us to the welcome spectacle of a thermonuclear obliteration of this yellow menace.

Good Points:
They're almost as far away as it's possible to be.

Nine hundred million Chinese walk into a bar. They order a beer, pay up, and then just sit there, sipping their drinks, not saying a word. Finally, the bartender can't stand it anymore. "We don't see many Chinese in here," he says.
"And with this atmosphere of hedonistic individualism capitalistically exploiting the labor of the masses and wasting the people's agricultural resources," say the Chinese, "you won't see many more."

more by PJ O'Rourke (1976)

09-15-2011, 01:22 PM
Sounds bleak for the Chinese.............

How is this different from our future???

the noble peace prize democrat just shit on the EPA, what's next on his agenda??

09-15-2011, 01:36 PM
Sounds bleak for the Chinese.............

How is this different from our future???

the noble peace prize democrat just shit on the EPA, what's next on his agenda??

Exactly. The point of the article wasn't to discuss Chinese cuisine or smoking habits. China is learning the cost of industry unchecked where profit is the only consideration. Not only is the environment in decline as it was before but the medical costs have increased.

09-15-2011, 01:51 PM
pick your poison:

Heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease have replaced hepatitis, diarrhea and malaria as desk work replaces farming, cars replace bicycles and smoking remains popular

China has more smokers than any other nation and more deaths from smoking-related causes, Chjinese gov't half heartedly enforces the "smoking ban"

They're facing the same issues of a modern society, lifestyle diseases.

Water pollution is another problem, just like India, many rivers are polluted.

air pollution: Air pollution in Beijing has been consistently listed as among the worst in the world by international organisations such as the United Nations.

They burn coal like crazy. They know the problems, eventually they'll get an EPA type organization, but right now they're busy aquiring wealth.