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Akin, John S.; Dow, William H.; Lance, Peter M.; & Loh, Chung-Ping A. (2005). Changes in Access to Health Care in China, 1989-1997. Health Policy and Planning, 20(2), 80-89.


The post-1979 period in China has seen the implementation of reforms that dismantled much of the Maoist era social welfare system and permitted a significant reallocation of society's resources. The result has been rapid but uneven economic development that has profoundly altered the environment within which consumers make health investment decisions. Many studies report significant and apparently non-random reductions in health care utilization during this period. Scholars have tended to focus on the loss of insurance coverage and the growth of fees for services in explaining such reductions. An alternative explanation is growing inequality in access to care. This possibility has not received much research attention. As a result, our understanding of the patterns of changes in health care access, and of the types of populations that have been most adversely affected, has been rather limited.
This research examines the distribution of the changes in several indicators of access to health care across communities during the period 1989 to 1997. We find evidence of relatively uneven changes to these indicators. Money charges for routine services increased consistently, though this trend was less pronounced in lower-income communities. Most communities experienced reductions in travel distance to clinics but increases in distance to hospitals. There were major improvements to the quality of care in wealthier rural areas, but not in poorer villages. Wealthier villages experienced less improvement in waiting time and drug availability. These trends appear to be closely associated with changing economic circumstances during the reform era.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Health Policy and Planning


Akin, John S.
Dow, William H.
Lance, Peter M.
Loh, Chung-Ping A.