Growth, Urbanization and Health in China

Posted On 2012-04-10 10:36:36
Posted by Paul Schoenhagen

In a recent article in the Lancet (1), investigators from the Centre for Earth System Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing (A Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modelling) analyzed the impact of China’s rapid urbanization on public health.

The authors describe that China has experienced the largest human migration in history and that provincial analysis of its urbanization trends shows shifting and accelerating rural-to-urban migration across the country and accompanying rapid increases in city size and population. According to the reported data, a growing disease burden in urban areas attributable to nutrition and lifestyle choices (2, 3) is identified as a major public health challenge, as are troubling disparities in health-care access, vaccination coverage, and accidents and injuries in China's rural-to-urban migrant population. Urban environmental quality, including air and water pollution (4) contributes to disease both in urban and in rural areas, and traffic-related accidents pose a major public health threat as the country becomes increasingly motorized. 

The authors conclude that innovative health policies focused on the needs of migrants and research that could close knowledge gaps on urban population exposures are needed to address the health challenges and maximize the benefits that accompany this rapid urbanization. (5)


1. Gong P, Liang S, Carlton EJ, Jiang Q, Wu J, Wang L, Remais JV. Urbanisation and health in China. Lancet. 2012;379:843-52.
2. Yang W, Lu J, Weng J, Jia W, Ji L, Xiao J, Shan Z, Liu J, Tian H, Ji Q, Zhu D, Ge J, Lin L, Chen L, Guo X, Zhao Z, Li Q, Zhou Z, Shan G, He J; China National Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders Study Group. Prevalence of diabetes among men and women in China. N Engl J Med. 2010;362:1090-101.
3. Wenying Yang, Jianzhong Xiao, Zhaojun Yang, Linong Ji, Weiping Jia, Jianping Weng, Juming Lu, Zhongyan Shan, Jie Liu, Haoming Tian, Qiuhe Ji, Dalong Zhu, Jiapu Ge, Lixiang Lin, Li Chen, Xiaohui Guo, Zhigang Zhao, Qiang Li, Zhiguang Zhou, Guangliang Shan, and Jiang He. Serum Lipids and Lipoproteins in Chinese Men and Women, Circulation published 9 April 2012, 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.065904
http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.065904v1
4. Jia Y, Stone D, Wang W, Schrlau J, Tao S, Simonich SL. Estimated reduction in cancer risk due to PAH exposures if source control measures during the 2008 Beijing Olympics were sustained. Environ Health Perspect. 2011;119:815-20.
5. Ho CS, Gostin LO. The social face of economic growth: China's health system in transition. JAMA. 2009;301:1809-11.