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Links between poverty and major illness in poor rural areas of China

Date: Thursday 1 November 13.30–15.00
Source: Forum 11
Authors: Henry Lucas, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, United Kingdom
with Ding Shijun


Major illness has become an important cause of rural household impoverishment in China as it manages the transition to a market economy. This is related to the rising cost of health care and the relatively low levels of government subsidy. The recently introduced risk-pooling scheme known as the `new CMS' (Cooperative Medical Scheme) was intended to address this issue.

This paper reports the initial findings of research intended to contribute to knowledge about the most effective ways to help households cope with major illness. A limited number of geographical case studies were undertaken, based on purposely selected counties in China. In each of these areas a rapid, large-scale household survey was undertaken, with the objective of identifying households substantially affected by different categories of serious health problems. In-depth studies of a stratified sample of these households were then used to explore the detailed impact of ill-health on: household and individual well-being; health care-seeking behaviour; coping strategies; health care-related costs; and the extent and effectiveness of the support provided by formal assistance schemes or other sources.