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How can we achieve a healthy China by 2030?

A new report, China Edition of Global Health and Healthcare Strategic Outlook, analyses progress and priorities for China’s healthcare.

A new report, China Edition of Global Health and Healthcare Strategic Outlook, analyses progress and priorities for China’s healthcare. Image: Unsplash/Hush Naidoo Jade Photography

Liming Chen
Chair of Greater China; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Helen Chen
Global Sector Co-Head, Healthcare and Life Sciences; Managing Partner, Greater China, LEK Consulting Shanghai
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This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions

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  • China aims to transform its healthcare systems through its 'Healthy China 2030' vision and stands at a critical junction to achieve its goal.
  • Four strategic pillars guide achieving the vision, with equity and public-private collaboration being key to its success.
  • The China Edition of Global Health and Healthcare Strategic Outlook identifies a range of levers available to public and private stakeholders to reduce barriers in healthcare systems – both domestically and globally.

China has identified a pathway for transforming health systems through its Healthy China 2030 vision. As the country now gradually lifts restrictions related to COVID-19, it stands at a critical juncture, redefining priorities and action plans to help achieve its goal.

A new report, China Edition of Global Health and Healthcare Strategic Outlook, launched at the 2023 Annual Meeting of New Champions in Tianjin, analyses progress and priorities for China’s healthcare.

Strategic Intelligence on Global Health and Healthcare, China edition.
Strategic Intelligence on Global Health and Healthcare, China edition. Image: World Economic Forum and L.E.K. Consulting

Strategic pillars for Healthy China 2030

Four strategic pillars are critical to achieving Healthy China 2030: equitable access and outcomes in health and healthcare; healthcare systems transformation; technology and innovation; and environmental and climate sustainability. Equity is the foundational goal.

The Healthy China 2030 strategic policy serves as a guiding framework for progressing health system improvements throughout this decade.
The Healthy China 2030 strategic policy serves as a guiding framework for progressing health system improvements throughout this decade. Image: World Economic Forum and L.E.K. Consulting

The Chinese government is making progress across these critical areas. The Healthy China 2030 strategic policy, published in 2016 with a subsequent implementation plan in 2019, serves as a guiding framework for progressing health system improvements throughout this decade.

China's 14th Five-Year Plan on National Health also provides a blueprint for current programmes and priorities over the period up to 2025, alongside industry-specific five-year plans.

Barriers to global healthcare reform

Health and healthcare stakeholders globally and in China are faced with multiple barriers, including healthcare workforce shortages, supply chain issues, and climate and macroeconomic instability.

Issues and barriers to address for achieving goals in each pillar.
Issues and barriers to address for achieving goals in each pillar. Image: World Economic Forum and L.E.K. Consulting

Addressing these barriers requires collaboration between public and private entities, globally and locally. Nonetheless, none of this collaboration will yield long-term impact unless the change is driven at the system level, which currently lacks the necessary support, incentives and monitoring mechanisms.

Solutions to reduce healthcare barriers

While the barriers presented may seem overwhelming at first glance, there’s evidence of best practices in China that work and can be scaled.

The Strategic Outlook China Edition identifies a range of levers available to public and private stakeholders to reduce barriers at play across healthcare systems in both China and globally.

The range of levers available to public and private stakeholders to reduce barriers at play across healthcare systems
The range of levers available to public and private stakeholders to reduce barriers at play across global healthcare systems. Image: World Economic Forum and L.E.K. Consulting

1. Cross-industry collaborations: Medical insurance poverty alleviation project 'Jin Qing Bang'

The Jin Qing Bang programme launched in 2021 in Jinyun, Zhejiang, as a collaboration between the Jinyun County Medical Insurance Bureau and Waterdrop, a fundraising platform.

The initiative reduces the high incidence of poverty caused by illness. As of December 2021, the project had allocated over CNY 5 million ($696,000) and relieved more than 200 disadvantaged patients with critical diseases.

2. Patient empowerment: ‘Credit-based’ family doctor service

Fuzhou launched China's first "credit-based" family doctor service in 2021, which rewards residents with credits for completing health-related tasks.

These credits can be redeemed for value-added health services. As of September 2022, about 234,000 residents had signed up for the service.

3. Policy and advocacy: China atopic dermatitis treatment

The 'China Atopic Dermatitis Standardization Action – Diagnosis and Treatment Capability Improvement Project' was launched by the National Health Commission and Pfizer to improve the consistency of care.

The project involves forming an expert committee, publishing guidelines, and establishing role-model hospitals to spread learning across the country via the medical alliance.

4. Digitalization, AI and big data: Zhejiang province intelligent disease screening for colorectal cancer

Together with Deepwise Medical, the Zhejiang Cancer Prevention and Control Office developed a provincial cancer screening information platform that integrates artificial intelligence and big data to support the "screening-diagnosis-treatment" pathway.

As of September 2022, the project had completed risk assessments and tests for nearly 4.6 million people and screened out more than 3,000 cases of colorectal cancer.

5. Decentralization: West China Women and Children’s Health Alliance

The West China Women and Children’s Health Alliance was established in Sichuan in 2017 to address the unequal distribution of pediatric medical resources.

The alliance provides training to more than 400 primary care doctors, conducts remote medical consultations, and establishes a mutual insurance fund. As of 2020, nearly 200,000 children had received standardized pediatric care at community health service centers.

6. Regional collaboration: Zhongshan Xiamen Hospital

Shanghai Zhongshan Hospital collaborated with the Xiamen government to establish the first national-regional medical centre in Fujian Province.

More than 100 experts were stationed to advise local medical staff, and a digital diagnosis and treatment platform was built. The project filled critical technical gaps and facilitated improvement among surrounding hospitals.

7. Innovative funding models: MediTrust CAR-T innovative payment

In response to the exclusion of high-cost innovative therapies from the scope of national medical insurance, MediTrust partnered with CAR-T manufacturers in 2021 to offer innovative payment options in CAR-T therapy in China.

These include efficacy-based reimbursement, patient assistance programmes, financial instalment schemes and other patient benefit services.

8. Public-private partnerships: Guangming Center Capability Construction and Enhancement Project

Partnered by the Beijing Bethune Charitable Foundation and the National Clinical Research Center for Ocular Diseases, the Guangming Center Capability Construction and Enhancement Project has established standards of practice and built an innovative retinal training platform.

It has high promise in promoting standardization and homogenization of retinal disease diagnosis and treatment. As of October 2022, 1,544 hospitals and 13,679 physicians are enrolled.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?

The path forward for healthcare

It’s increasingly important to work together to ensure that sustainability, equality, resilience and innovation are embedded into future health and healthcare systems.

To progress, private stakeholders should:

  • Mobilize investment to drive innovation in medicine development and commercialization, supply chain optimization and healthcare delivery.
  • Work with policymakers to outline ways to cultivate regulatory environments that support the adoption of technology and innovation.
  • Mandate that environmental, social and governance pillars are embedded equally into the health and healthcare industry by defining and tracking a clear set of metrics centrally. This would encourage widespread adoption and standardize expectations across the industry, in collaboration with public bodies.

While the Chinese government has already made strides across a few priority actions and has a clear avenue through shared and local policy visions to maintain existing momentum, in the upcoming years, it can:

  • Internationally cooperate to create an environment that facilitates and promotes capacity building and investing in under-represented geographies with vulnerable populations.
  • Redesign systems to focus on the value of outcomes achieved and implement policies that ensure the changes are at the system level but allow for local autonomy and flexibility in funding models.
  • Mitigate national divergences in data regulations by convening an international body that sets out rules and guidelines to harmonize data use and its applications within health and healthcare while keeping policy-makers updated on data-related matters.

Healthcare, both in China and across the world, faces multiple challenges. But collaboration between public and private stakeholders and having equity as a foundational goal will help address these barriers.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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