BEIJING, April 7, 2009 -- China's planned health sector reforms are in line with principles of the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide equal access to universal health-care, WHO head Margaret Chan said Tuesday.
She said the level of consultation by the Chinese government before launching the reform was "commendable."
Chan made the comments at the launch of the World Health Day campaign in Beijing the same day the Chinese cabinet announced a three-year action plan on health-care reform that will last more than a decade.
"The broad principles contained in the Chinese government's new health-care reform are in line with what the WHO is promoting, for example, the principle of equity, the principle of having the poor (covered by) health policies," said Chan, the director general of the WHO.
After more than 20 years of transition from a socialist planned to a market economy, China's cradle-to-grave social security network was gradually dismantled, leaving many vulnerable.
Efforts in the past decade to reform the health sector were also regarded as unsuccessful. Three years ago the government began to draft a new reform plan aimed at helping all 1.3 billion citizens have effective and affordable access to a better health care.
The core principle of the reform is to provide basic health-care as a public service, which requires greater government funding and supervision.
Asked if health-care services should be provided free, Chan said it was necessary to take a piecemeal approach to that objective, which was also in line with the principles of WHO.
Chan said experience from other parts of the world showed that "there is no substance provided free."
"It has to be paid for, either from general taxation, either through special government arrangement to provide helpful policy to encourage public insurance," she said.
Chan said health-care reform was "very complex and difficult," and had different factors coming into play, which required efforts of both the public and leaders.
She said central and local political leaders at different levels should consult with their people to try to find their own solutions.
"One thing I have to say though... the level of consultation done by the Chinese government before they formally launch the health care reform is commendable," Chan said.
In the government's early stage of deliberation and preparation, the WHO was among the agencies and organizations to provide advice and technical assistance, she said.
The government also went held a major consultation process with the public by publishing the draft plan on health-care reform on the Internet for public debate.
"Last year when they were doing the consultation, I actually went on the website to review some of the comments," Chan said. "So this is already an indication of the commitment of the government to modernize their method of policy formulation."