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On the Equalization of Basic Public Health Services in China’s Minority Ethnic Regions: A Case Study of Aba, Ganzi and Liangshan Prefectures of China’s Sichuan Province
September 28,2016   By:chinahumanrights.org
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Zhou Yan  (photo: Zhao Yifan)

On the Equalization of Basic Public Health Services in China’s Minority Ethnic Regions: A Case Study of Aba, Ganzi and Liangshan Prefectures of China’s Sichuan Province
 
Zhou Yan

Associate Professor of Southwest University of Political Science and Law
 
Abstract: The right to health is a basic human right, so the equality and fairness in health is a social indicator that all countries around the world have been following closely. In order to improve equality in health and the people’s accessibility to basic public health services, the Chinese government has promulgated a series of policies intended to boost public health service equalization, and has been steadily advancing equalization in access to public health services as part of its bid to deepen the reform of China’s medical care system. Particularly, promoting equalization in access to basic public health services in regions mainly inhabited by minority ethnic groups is highly conducive to the realization of the minority communities’ exercise of their right to health and to consolidating ethnic unity and social harmony, in view of the fact that in such regions, due to the relative backwardness in social and economic development of such regions, the local ethnic minority communities’ lack of access to cost-effective medical services is more acute than in more developed areas of the country, which is highly detrimental to the realization of local residents’ right to health. 
 
This study, proceeding from the current state of basic public health services in three prefectures in Sichuan Province, namely, Aba, Ganzi and Liangshan, all of which are mainly inhabited by minority ethnic groups, described current state of basic public health services in the three places on the basis of analyses of official data obtained from numerous documents, including the 2012 Fiscal Balance Sheets of the three prefectures, the 2013 Yearbook for Health and Family Planning in Sichuan Province, the Statistical Yearbooks of Sichuan Province for 2006-2013, as well as official data and information offered by the Grassroots Health Division of the National Health and Family Planning Commission for the three prefectures. In the process, problems were identified, the causes of such problems were analyzed, so as to put forward policy proposals for the equalization of basic public health services in ethnic minority regions. 
 
In the present study, it was found that there exist two major problems in basic public health services in the three prefectures: unreasonable distribution of public health service resources between urban and rural areas as well as between different regions; there is a glaring gap between rural and urban areas, as well as between different regions, in terms of the level of basic public health services offered. The two problems can be primarily attributed to the following factors: Those regions are relatively backward in terms of economic development, which adversely affect the fiscal funding for ethnic minority regions, which in turn weakens the capability of local governments in such regions to finance basic public health services, resulting in a considerable gap between those regions and other areas; unfavorable geographic and demographic factors pushed up the cost of basic public health services in those regions; although there exist cross-regional differences in terms of local residents’ need for basic health services, the same rate of financing and subsidies are offered to all regions regardless of their differences, which hinders the equalization of basic public health services; such factors as the public fiscal system, transfer payment system and the varying degree of attention paid by the government have also become hindrance to basic public health service equalization. In summary, the central government and the governments in ethnic minority regions should, for starters, carry out and fulfill basic public health services, establish a sound public fiscal system, put in place favorable policies, innovate on basic public health service supply patterns and improve performance evaluation mechanism, and after that, they should carry out certain policies in order to realize basic public health service equalization in the ethnic minority regions. 
 
Key Words: Right to health; Ethnic Minority Region; Equalization of Basic Public Health Service
 
Zhou Yan, Southwest University of Political Science and Law.