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CPPCC members reflect on China’s approach to infectious diseases since founding of PRC

Updated: 2020-09-22 chinadaily.com.cn


By reflecting on China's approach to infectious diseases and evolution of its public health system since the founding of the People's Republic of China, three members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) recently revealed the country's political and institutional strengths in epidemic control and prevention.

Liu Yucun, executive deputy secretary of the Party committee of Peking University and Party secretary of the Peking University Health Science Center

Liu said that by looking back on previous major epidemics in human history it is more difficult to contain the spread of infectious diseases transmitted through the respiratory system than to contain those transmitted through the digestive system.

He divided the development of the COVID-19 epidemic into three stages – budding stage, early stage and prevalent stage, saying that medical professionals are crucial in the budding stage whereas officials with medical knowledge play a more important role in the early stage. China performed better than other countries in the prevalent stage, Liu said.

He noted that as a result of its huge investment in epidemic control and prevention including those in training of epidemiological professionals, China succeeded in effectively stemming the spread of several major epidemics not long after the founding of the PRC, which was a major achievement. He said he believes that the COVID-19 epidemic highlights the need to always keep an eye on infectious diseases and to pay more attention to health in a broader sense including physical health, hygiene, rest and mental health. Comparing Chinese and Western medicines, Liu said it is fair to say that Chinese medicine is effective since it can mitigate patients' symptoms. He said that China's strong leadership, efficient overall allocation and mobilization of resources and the cooperativeness of the Chinese people are the reasons that it was able to quickly get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

Chi Hui, president of the Institute of Medical Information of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences

Chi noted modern society's negligence of epidemic prevention coupled with viruses' constant variation makes it possible for an epidemic to break out at any time. Well-developed public transport systems also hasten viruses' spread. As for epidemic control, she said the top priority is to cut off all transmission channels, pointing to China's successful effort to handle the pneumonic plague ravaging Northeast China in 1910.

Chi said the Chinese government has attached great importance to epidemic control and prevention since the founding of the PRC. It categorized such major infectious diseases as plague and cholera as A-level infectious diseases in 1951. The health issue also has a place in the Common Program of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the CPPCC's founding document adopted in 1949, said Chi. She pointed out that one of the major differences between Western and Chinese medicines is that the former focuses on killing viruses while the latter pays more attention to enhancement of the immune system. Chi also called for more care for medical workers.

Tang Xudong, vice-president of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences

Tang said increasingly frequent human interaction facilitates disease spread. He pointed out that despite low-level economic development in the early days of the PRC, China did a great job in building a public health system at the grassroots which was a significant achievement. He noted that the COVID-19 outbreak highlights the importance of building a well-functioning rural public health network. As for the role of Chinese medicine in treating infectious diseases, Tang referred to it as a unique medical resource of China. He said that Chinese medicine has proved its effectiveness in preventing deterioration of mild symptoms, and the makeshift hospitals China built during its battle against the COVID-19 also provided an opportunity for the use of Chinese medicine. He said he expected Chinese medicine to play a greater role in treatment of new major infectious diseases in the future.

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