China, World Bank and WHO Collaborate to Support ‘Deep Water’ Phase of Health Reforms

February 17, 2015

Joint World Bank-WHO-government health reform study launched in Beijing

On February 12, 2015, the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a new collaboration with the Government of China to support the next phase of China’s health system reforms.

Over the last five years, China has undertaken the biggest health reform in history – with remarkable results: 95 per cent of China’s 1.39 billion citizens now have access to a basic health insurance package, up from 30 per cent in 2003.   

Yet, for China to build a strong, sustainable, equitable, and cost- effective health system equipped to meet current and future challenges, deepening of reforms is needed.

At the request of senior government officials, the World Bank and the World Health Organization are collaborating with China’s Ministry of Finance, National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to analyze current constraints within the health reform process and identify practical solutions.

“In 2009, the Government of China launched an ambitious national health reform program to provide affordable, equitable and effective health care for all by 2020,” said Bert Hofman, World Bank Country Director for China.

“Impressive progress has been made in that time: health insurance coverage has increased, and access to health care has greatly improved. But the increasing rates of non-communicable disease like  diabetes, hypertension and cancer coupled with an ageing population—and worryingly high prevalence rates key risk factors such as smoking—mean that pressing challenges for the health service delivery system remain,” Hofman said. 

“China is now entering the ‘deep water’ phase of the health reform project, where crossing the river will require more than just feeling the stones,” said Dr. Vivian Lin, Director Health Systems in the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with the World Bank to support the Government of China as it navigates this crucial next phase of health reform. China now has an unprecedented opportunity to innovate and develop new models of health service delivery that are truly people-centered and meet the needs and demands of China’s vast population,” Dr. Lin said.

The World Bank-WHO collaboration with China’s Ministry of Finance, NHFPC, and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security will deliver recommendations to the government on the practical and concrete actions required to build a health care system for the future later this year.