China vows better environmental monitoring to improve health

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China aims to create a comprehensive environmental monitoring system by 2030 in its efforts to boost citizens’ health and raise life expectancy, the government has said.

Devices for collecting samples of Beijing's air are installed on the rooftop of the air quality forecast and warning center in Beijing, China, May 21, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Pollution has been identified as one of the biggest threats to public health in China, with smog in the northern region blamed for higher rates of cancer, respiratory disease and premature death. Widespread soil and water contamination have also caused health hazards.

Air pollution killed more than 1 million people in China in 2012 alone, the World Health Organisation said in a study published in September.

The State Council, or cabinet, said it would set up the “strictest environmental protection system” to oversee construction, noise and atmospheric pollution, soil and water quality and the rural environment.

The new system would identify high-risk pollution zones and establish a unified disclosure platform for environmental information, the cabinet said in its “Healthy China 2030” plan, published late on Tuesday.

It said China aimed to raise average life expectancy to 79 years by 2030, up from 76.3 years in 2015, and would also work to tackle a gender imbalance by setting up a “complete birth monitoring system”.

It aims to strengthen public sanitation and provide clean drinking water, among the rural health issues tackled.

It will also seek to cut infant mortality, traffic deaths, smoking and alcohol abuse, work to improve cancer survival rates, rein in early deaths from chronic diseases and step up intervention for psychological illnesses, it added.

To help reduce health risks, it would also aim to raise the number of active participants in sport to 530 million by 2030, up from 360 million in 2014, besides promoting the “leading role” of Chinese medicine in disease treatment.

Also on the cards is the creation of “mature” forms of health insurance, with more balanced contributions from government, enterprises and individuals, as part of efforts to cut individual health costs to about a quarter of total spending, versus 29.3 percent in 2015.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Clarence Fernandez