The China Study
Accessibility and affordability of cataract surgery has improved in China – but there is still more to achieve
Access to healthcare has improved dramatically in China over the last two decades. Before 2009, there were only three basic medical insurance systems. But thanks to persistent efforts from the government – and significant financial support – 95 percent of Chinese people are now covered by medical insurance. At present, this insurance covers between 70 and 80 percent of cataract surgical expenses. Not only that, the government initiated the “One Million Cataract Blindness Project” in 2009 to provide free cataract surgeries for poorer patients, with additional financial and medical support from NGOs. To speak from the perspective of ophthalmic resources in China, the number of ophthalmologists reached 37,000 in 2018 – 1.5 ophthalmologists per 50,000 people. 36 percent can perform cataract surgery independently, and of those, 34 percent can perform phacoemulsification. Currently, over 85 percent of hospitals have established ophthalmology departments, with 88 percent providing cataract surgery independently. These developments have all greatly increased access to affordable cataract surgery in China.
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