What is healthcare in China like?

Facilities and Health Information:

The standards of medical care in China are not equivalent to those in the United States. If you plan to travel outside of major Chinese cities, you should consider making special preparations.

Travelers have reported difficulty passing through customs inspection when arriving with large quantities of prescription medications. If you regularly take over-the-counter or prescription medication, bring your own supply in the original container, including each drug's generic name, and carry the doctor's prescription with you. Many commonly-used U.S. drugs and medications are not available in China, and some that bear names that are the same as or similar to prescription medications from the United States may not contain the same ingredients or may be counterfeit. If you try to have medications sent to you from outside China, you may have problems getting them released by Chinese Customs and/or you may have to pay high customs duties.

Reuse of medical supplies such as syringes and needles or poor sterilization practices are problems in China, contributing to transmission of diseases such as hepatitis, which is endemic in China. To avoid contamination, travelers should always ask doctors and dentists to use sterilized equipment and be prepared to pay for new syringe needles in hospitals or clinics.

In emergencies, Chinese ambulances are often slow to arrive, and most do not have sophisticated medical equipment or trained responders. In most parts of China, helicopter evacuations are not commercially available. Many travelers choose to take taxis or other vehicles to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for ambulances to arrive. Most hospitals demand cash payment or a deposit in advance for admission, procedures, or emergencies, although a few hospitals in major cities may accept credit cards.

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and a few other large cities have medical facilities with some international staff. Many hospitals in major Chinese cities have so-called VIP wards (gaogan bingfang). Most VIP wards provide medical services to foreigners and have some English-speaking staff. However, even in the VIP/foreigner wards of major hospitals, you may have difficulty due to cultural, language, and regulatory differences. In China, it is customary for patients' families to help care for them in the hospital and to supply their toiletries, paper supplies, and meals. Hospitals often refuse to perform surgery or administer treatment without the written consent of the patient's family, even if they are not in China, and doctors frequently will only tell the family members the patient's diagnosis and prognosis, but will not discuss it with the patient. Physicians and hospitals sometimes refuse to give U.S. patients copies of their Chinese hospital medical records, including laboratory test results, scans, and x-rays.

Mental health facilities or medications are not widely available in China. If you are traveling to or studying abroad in China, before you go, put a plan in place for managing your mental health.

In most rural areas, only rudimentary medical facilities are available, often with poorly trained personnel who have little medical equipment and medications. Rural clinics are often reluctant to accept responsibility for treating foreigners, even in emergency situations.

If you elect to have surgery or other medical services performed in China, be aware that there is little legal recourse to protect you in case of medical malpractice. The U.S. Embassy and consulates general in China maintain lists of local English-speaking doctors and hospitals, which are published on their respective American Citizens Services web pages.

Most roads and towns in Tibet, Qinghai, parts of Xinjiang, and western Sichuan are situated at altitudes over 10,000 feet. If you plan to travel in these areas, you should seek medical advice in advance of travel, allow time for acclimatization to the high altitude, and remain alert to signs of altitude sickness. Air pollution is also a significant problem throughout China, and you should consult your doctor prior to travel and consider the impact seasonal smog and heavy particulate pollution may have on you. You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. Please note that the CDC recommends that travelers to China ensure that their polio vaccinations are up to date. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website.

Tuberculosis is also an increasingly serious health concern in China. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.

HIV is a significant concern in China. An estimated quarter of a million people in China are living with HIV, most of whom are not aware of their status.

ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY: In vitro fertilization (IVF) is widely practiced in China and a number of government-licensed clinics perform the procedure. Surrogacy, however, is strictly forbidden under Chinese law and surrogacy contracts will not be considered valid in China. The use of reproductive technology for medical research and profit is strictly controlled in China. In February 2013, the Chinese Ministry of Health launched a crackdown against unlicensed fertility clinics and underground fertility treatment programs.

Drinking Water Source - % of rural population improved"

84.9%

Drinking Water Source - % of total population unimproved:

8.1%

Drinking Water Source - % of urban population improved:

98.4%

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.1%

Hospital Bed Density - beds/1,000 population:

3.8

People Living with HIV/AIDS:

740,000

Physicians Density - physicians/1,000 population:

1.46

Diseases - note:

highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds

Sanitation Facility Access - % of total population unimproved:

34.7%

Sanitation Facility Access - % of urban population improved:

74.1%

Sanitation Facitlity Access - % of rural population improved:

55.8%

Infectious Diseases - degree of risk:

intermediate

Food or Waterborne Disease (s):

bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

Soil contact disease (s):

hantaviral hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome

Vectorborne Disease (s):

Japanese encephalitis

Disability Access In China

Accessibility:

While in China, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Standards adopted for making roads and buildings accessible to persons with disabilities are subject to the Law on the Handicapped, which calls for their "gradual" implementation; however, compliance with the law is lax. Even in newer areas of large cities, sidewalks often do not have curb cuts, making wheelchair or stroller use difficult. Many large streets can be crossed only via overhead pedestrian bridges not accessible except by staircase. Although some sidewalks have special raised "buttons" or strips to help those who are blind or have restricted sight to follow the pavement, they are unreliable. While most public buildings have elevators, they are often locked, and the responsible official with the key must be located before they can be used.

In major cities, public restrooms in places visited by tourists usually have a least one handicap-accessible toilet. International signage is used to identify handicap-accessible facilities. Free or reduced-entry fares on public transportation are sometimes provided for a handicapped person and a companion, although this is usually stated only in Chinese and is often restricted to residents with special identification cards.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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