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Asia Health and Wellness News Summary – February 2011

February 16, 2011 | Written by rfasia

In February, the media in China turned its attention to the issue of environmental pollution.  According to New Century Weekly, scholars estimate that 10% of the rice in China is contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal found in the affected rice fields.  Environmental pollution also made the “Top 10 Hot Issues” list for the first time in an online survey conducted by people.com.cn.  Premier Wen Jiabo remarked, “We can no longer sacrifice the environment in return for fast economic growth” during a recent online exchange.

Incidents exposing the volatile nature of doctor-patient relations also attracted online and media attention.  A doctor’s insensitive comments regarding a dying patient on her micro-blog went viral and drew widespread commentary.  Insensitivity also might have prompted a deceased patient’s relatives to assault doctors in a Shanghai hospital.  Another report cited research showing that 80% of medical confrontations arise from medical staff members’ attitude and improper language.

On the issue of healthcare’s affordability and accessibility, a study cited by the Chinese Academy of Social Science found that the new medical reform has reduced the costs for patients, especially among rural and low-income families.  However, over 70% of respondents to the people.com.cn survey said that healthcare remains too expensive.

The State Council issued a document outlining five areas to advance medical reforms, including an increase in annual subsidies for healthcare insurance premiums from 120 to 200 yuan.  Health Minister Chen also responded to inquiries about the challenges of making healthcare affordable and accessible.  The 21st Economic Herald published an article by Professor Gu Xing of Peking University titled “UK’s Universal Health Scheme Moving Toward a Market-Based System.”

In the region, the media reported on news relating to public health initiatives and concerns.  Hong Kong’s government raised tobacco products’ prices in a bid to discourage their use.  Taiwan’s Department of Health reportedly is considering legislation to restrict television ads for fast foods to combat obesity.  In Korea, public health worries have arisen since the foot and mouth epidemic, and Singapore reported a big jump in endometrial cancer among Singaporean women.

February’s media reports in China showed the government’s responsiveness to the public’s concerns and the challenges to implementing policies.  Professor Gu’s article, published in a leading newspaper, indicates that the debate over the mechanism for providing basic healthcare remains vibrant.  Reports on the volatile state of doctor-patient relations also underscore the urgent need for a viable solution as this round of reform pushes toward its final year.  As for the business community, the news and opinion trends suggest a need for a communication platform that supports vibrant debate on the best approach to promote both the reform’s goals and harmonious relations among key stakeholders.

Ruder Finn Asia offers an issue tracking, analysis, and advisory service on behalf of clients.  The service is designed specifically to a client’s strategic positioning and competitive profile and provides insights to guide corporate, medical, and health communications.  For more information on this service, please contact Mai Tran at mtran@ruderfinnasia.com.


二月份期间,《新世纪》周刊报道的“镉米杀机”引发媒体对环境污染话题的关注。根据《新世纪》周刊报道,“重金属镉正通过污染土壤侵入稻米;学者抽样调查显示中国多地市场上约10%大米镉超标;中国在多种重金属污染的稻米之前几不设防。” 人民网推出两会专题调查,就百姓最关注的热点、焦点问题征集网民意见。十大热点中,环境污染位居第六。这是环境污染首度入选十大热点话题。新华网也报导,国务院总理温家宝27日时指出,“我们绝不能再以牺牲环境的代价来换取高速增长。



据中国网报导,国务院办公厅近日下发关于印发医药卫生体制五项重点改革2011年度主要工作安排的通知。通知明确,今年政府对新农合和城镇居民医保补助标准均由上一年每人每年120元提高到200元。卫生部部长陈竺在作深化医药卫生体制改革形势报告时,分析并回应了群众“看病难、看病贵”6大问题。 而21世纪经济报道刊登了北京大学政府管理学院教授顾昕撰写关于英国全民免费医疗走向市场化的文章。


罗德公关为客户提供一套“论点追踪、分析、和咨询”的服务方案。该服务依据客户业务需求,为客户提供策劃及執行公共事務和公共關係傳播的工作的參考。詳情請洽:Mai Tran (mtran@ruderfinnasia.com)

Medical Reform

A doctor’s insensitive comments regarding a dying patient went viral online and attracted widespread media attention.  According to Nanfang Daily:

  • The doctor, dubbed a “cold-blooded doctor” by netizens, allegedly wrote, “Please die after I’m off duty,” “Good news!  The patient died in the afternoon.  I can get a good night’s sleep!” among other entries.  The doctor has since claimed that her blog was breached by hackers and that she did not write these entries.
  • The micro-blog was reposted some 10,000 times and generated several thousand disapproving comments on the site.  Netizens also tracked down the doctor’s identity and the location where she works in Guangzhou.
  • Liao Xinbo, deputy director of Guangzhou’s Health Office, acknowledged the entries’ negative impact on medical workers and added, “The issue is this doctor’s values, which could be because of her immaturity.  The media do not need to sensationalize the incident.”
  • 微博让病人“下班再死”女医生被调洗衣房(图)

In another incident, a deceased patient’s relatives assaulted doctors in a hospital in Shanghai.

One writer urged doctors to adopt pleasant manners to improve their relations with patients, citing a study that found that medical workers’ poor attitude, communication skills and professional ethics cause 80% of medical disputes.  A reader whose comment received the most “like” votes wrote, “Ridiculous.  Please substantiate your claim (that medical disputes are due to poor communication).  Too much energy already is wasted on communication.  Many problems cannot be resolved with communication.  We should all face this reality.”  (八成医疗纠纷源于医务人员态度及用语问题; Readers’ Comments)

The Chinese Academy of Social Science cited a research showing that the new medical reform has achieved measurable progress.  According to China Business Times, the academy found:

  • Rural and low-income families have experienced the most significant reduction in financial burden from the new medical reform.
  • Community healthcare facilities’ overall capabilities and quality have risen.  The improvement is especially noticeable in the area of infrastructure and hardware improvement.
  • Although efforts to reduce healthchare’s financial burden have made progress, the actual improvement continues to lag behind the public’s expectations.  In a similar study in 2009, close to 60% of respondents reported confidence in the new medical reform plan; over 70% expressed confidence in the Basic Healthcare System’s effect on reducing the financial burden.
  • 2010中国居民生活质量指数报告显示:新医改已使公众医疗负担有所减轻

However, an online survey organized by people.com.cn found that 72% of participating netizens consider healthcare too expensive.  According to the report:

  • Medical reform is seventh on the list of the top 10 issues ahead of the national congressional meetings, based on the votes of netizens who participated in the survey.  Medical reform ranked eighth in 2010 and third in 2009.  In 2009, drug safety tied with food safety for second place on the list.
  • Drug safety has not made the list in 2011 and food safety has dropped to ninth place.
  • Over 70% of respondents reported that healthcare remains expensive, and 46% reported that medical reform must abandon the practice of using pharmaceutical sales to finance medical operations.
  • “两会”网民关注十大热点:环境污染首度入选

The State Council announced that annual subsidies for medical insurance premiums would increase from 120 to 200 yuan.  (China pledges more efforts to reform health care; 我国医保补助标准由每人每年120元提至200元)

Health Minister Chen also responded to inquiries regarding the challenges to making healthcare affordable and accessible.  According to the Xinhua Agency:

  • Chen reported that there are two types healthcare inaccessibility:
    • The first is “absolute inaccessibility,” which is the lack of adequate basic medical services.  This problem is especially pronounced in central and western China.
    • The other type of inaccessibility is a lack of high-quality medical resources to meet the demand.  This problem is especially acute when patients with minor ailments seek care in large hospitals instead of low-level hospitals.
  • Chen pointed out that there are also several types of affordability. 
    • The first is a patient’s subjective experience, by which he measures the price relative to his perception of the value of healthcare services and results.
    • Another type of affordability relates to a family’s ability to pay.
    • The third type relates to society’s ability to pay.  Unless medical costs are properly controlled, when they exceed what the overall society can afford, they impede economic sustainability and development.
  • Remedies for addressing these issues should include:
    • Expediting the development of basic health insurance to lower the proportion of personal contributions in healthcare expenditures: The percentage of personal contributions had fallen to 38.2% by 2009, compared to 60% in 2001.  The goal during the 12th Five-Year Plan is to move this number below 30% by the end of the five years.
    • Solid implementation of the National Basic Drug System: Chen reported that in areas that have implemented the zero sales margin policy, drug prices have declined by 30%.
    • Increase the number of medical gatekeepers at the community level: This will include building and procuring equipment for hospitals and other medical facilities.  A plan is being initiated to train 60,000 community primary care doctors as well.
    • Promote preventive health care including establishing health files for rural and urban residents, and providing chronic disease management and free physical examinations for those aged 65 and older.  The budget for public health services will increase to 25 yuan per person, from 17.5 yuan in 2010.
  • 陈竺:深化医药卫生体制改革 逐步缓解群众看病就医问题

Xinhua English also covered Health Minister Chen’s address, focusing its report on China’s plan to further ease the cost of medical services.

The 21st Economic Herald published an article by Professor Gu Xing of Peking University titled “UK’s Universal Health Scheme Moving Toward a Market-Based System.”  According to Gu, China’s key guiding principles for the reform are to “provide basic insurance, strengthen grassroots healthcare services, and establish a healthcare operating system.”  In his view, China’s efforts on this operating system have lagged behind the other two principles.  Gu wrote that the UK’s experience reforming its system of paying for primary healthcare could offer valuable insights on this last goal.


Business & Initiatives

  • Pharmaceutical Economics News reported that a quiet game-change is taking place in the glucose-lowering drug market, a market long dominated by foreign businesses.  According to the report, United Laboratories announced that it has secured production permits for three insulin preparations in China, giving the company a portfolio of four insulin products.  According to industry experts, very few domestic companies currently have the capability to produce this high-profit-margin (estimated to be over 70%) drug.  Analysts expect the company to enjoy a significant price advantage over its high-priced foreign competitors.  (决战胰岛素 内外资企业“火拼”降糖药市场)
  • Bayer says to expand China R&D centre
  • GE Healthcare aims to boost medical facile ties

Health & Wellness

  • New Century Weekly reported that the heavy metal cadmium is poisoning rice through the contaminated soil in rice fields.  According to random tests scholars conducted, an estimated 10% of the rice in China exceeds the upper safety limit of cadmium in the grain.  Most worrying is that China has no policy guidelines governing agricultural planting on contaminated land.  A significant number of known contaminated lands continue to be used for agricultural purposes.  One estimate puts the total amount of contaminated land at 180 million mu (1 mu = 666 square meters), with cadmium-contaminated land accounting for 80 million mu.  (镉米杀机)
  • Another article posted on china.com pointed out that the problem of contaminated agricultural land was first raised in 2007.  Since then, the situation of land pollution has deteriorated.  The article quoted an authority who estimated the annual contamination of crops by heavy metal at 12 million tons, which causes an economic loss estimated at 20 billion yuan.  Although the central government has introduced measures to contain pollution and treat the affected land, officials and businesses chasing high GDP and strong economic performance often overlook the issue.  (叩问农地污染:“中毒”怎会越来越重)
  • One in 7 Chinese travel for health care
  • Flu season has some turning to Chinese remedies
  • China Cuts Economic Growth Target as Premier Wen Calls for Sustainability

Public Health

China’s Smoking Costs Have Risen More Than 300 Percent

China too connected to IV meds

Gates Foundation to improve child vaccines in China

China to crack down on antibiotics abuse

Additional News from the Greater China and Other Markets:

Hong Kong




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Health & Wellness News Summary

Ruder Finn Asia's Health and Wellness News Summary provides a snapshot of editorial and blogosphere opinions shaping the healthcare market landscape. We organize a periodical presentation reviewing and analyzing how these opinion trends might impact healthcare communications strategies.

To sign up for the next presentation, please contact Mai Tran at Mtran@ruderfinnasia.com





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