Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thinking of the People

Today on our way to lunch my colleague talked about the first confirmed case of A (H1N1) virus on the Chinese mainland.

A man surnamed Bao returned to Chengdu from the United States and caught the virus. While it's been reported his temperature has returned to normal, many are worried about the possible spread in the country.

My coworker said China's extreme quarantine measures it has imposed on people arriving in China such as Americans, Canadians and Mexicans was a result of Beijing learning from SARS in 2003.

I noted that the actions China took were quite severe, to which my colleague got defensive and said, "But China has 1.3 billion people. If the virus spreads in the country, it would be hard for us to contain."

But then I countered with if the government invested more in the health care system so that people would trust the doctors and also health education so that if they thought something was wrong with them they would see the doctor right away.

Again the argument came back: "But can you imagine if the government spent one kuai on each person for healthcare? That's 1.3 billion yuan!" he exclaimed. "And most of them live in the countryside."

I answered back that health care costs would be lower if the government spent a bit of money on educating people on hygiene, like telling people it's not good to spit on the streets, or on the floors of subway carriages for that matter.

To this he couldn't give a rebuttal.

I know 1.3 billion people is alot. But the government needs to invest in education. It has trillions of US dollars in T-bills, but at the same time it is spending billions of yuan on infrastructure stimulus packages.

Isn't it time for Beijing to do as the Communists did some 60 years ago and reach out to this large segment of the population and tell them what they need to know to avoid disease and have healthy lives? Stop smoking would be a first priority, then encouraging mothers to breastfeed would be another.

While those two things don't exactly help stimulate the economy, at least well-informed citizens who live longer and can contribute more to government coffers and the country's development a more sustainable and forward-thinking strategy that cares about the people?

I'm getting tired of the excuse that China has 1.3 billion people. It is time the government actively try to give them the necessary education to help the country move forward. Keeping people in the dark is a sign of insecurity and fear.

No comments: