Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


April 3, 2008 - Shorenstein APARC, CHP/PCOR, FSI Stanford, AHPP News

Eggleston and colleagues receive award for research on China's dramatic pre-1980 health improvements

By Karen Eggleston

Official growth in Chinese life expectancy between 1950 and 1980 ranks among the most rapid in documented global history, yet virtually no study has quantitatively assessed the determinants of those longevity gains. Recently Karen Eggleston received notice of an award from Stanford's Center for Demography and Economics of Health and Aging--supported by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Aging--for a study entitled "Health Improvement under Mao and Its Implications for Contemporary Aging in China." Eggleston will undertake this study jointly with colleagues Grant Miller, Stanford Center for Health Policy/Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research, and Hongbin Li, a Stanford-trained PhD at Tsinghua University's Department of Economics in Beijing, PRC.

In this study, Eggleston, Miller and Li aim to document and better understand the dramatic health improvements in Maoist China and the age-related health disparities that it may have generated. They will validate official Chinese health statistics to establish the magnitude of China's mortality decline between 1950 and 1980; and identify the proximate determinants correlated with China's mortality decline, using data on regional variation in such factors as primary healthcare infrastructure, drinking water quality, sanitation, nutrition, and childhood vaccination rates.

Finally, the authors will assess how the forces related to life expectancy gains may have produced age disparities in health. Together with the one-child policy and rapid reductions in fertility, China's population is now aging rapidly. Ironically, because gains in life expectancy have largely been produced by focusing on infant and child health, China has accelerated population aging while building a health care system poorly equipped to address chronic conditions and diseases of old age. This study aims to provide a better understanding of how Mao-era policies shape contemporary aging in China.

Topics: Aging | Children's health | Economics | Health policy | History | Water | China