Disparities in Health Outcomes Between India and China

Disparities in Health Outcomes Between India and China
Disparities in Health Outcomes Between India and China

Disparities in Health Outcomes Between India and China

Disparities in Health Outcomes Between India and China


            There are significant health disparities between India and China as well as within their populations. At the end of World War I, health outcomes of both China and India were almost comparable. However, the health system of China improved more tremendously than that of India roughly thirty years after the war. The health progress in India thirty years ago is surprisingly better than that of China despite the fact that India is still one of the countries of the world whose economy is highly impacted by the problem of food insecurity (Yip and Mahal, 2008). Ideally, India and China have had varied experiences in health outcomes in the last 50 years

Variations in Health Outcomes between China and India

            In the last 50 years, China and India have experienced significant differences in life expectancy rates as well as in rates of parasitic and infectious diseases. The most important measure of life expectancy is infant mortality, while the measure of infectious disease burden is adjustments in life years among the population (Bardhan, 2008). Since the early 1970s, India has been experiencing lower life expectancy, as evidenced by higher infant mortality rates, than China (Kanjilal, Mazumdar, Mukherjee and Rahman, 2010).

By the year 2000, the rate of deaths among children aged five years and below was 46 percent in India and only 8 percent in China. These are deaths that resulted from children who are born if they are underweight (Bardhan, 2008). According to Yip and Mahal (2008), the burden of infectious diseases in India is higher than that of China. Considering these variations, the health care systems of both India and China can only perform effectively if appropriate actions are taken to improve health outcomes about life expectancy and burden of parasitic and infectious diseases.

Reasons Behind the Health Outcome Disparities Between India and China

            The two leading causes of health outcome disparities between India and China are variations in health literacy and implementation of public health policies. According to Yip and Mahal (2008), India has been experiencing low life expectancy over the years because of limited health literacy among its population. Yip and Mahal (2008) further assert that the health literacy level in India at the moment is far much lower than it was in China more than ten years ago.

Due to limited health literacy among Indian population, families cannot implement basic health promotion strategies such as proper nutrition and home hygiene practices. The overall impact is an increased burden of infectious diseases coupled with high infant mortality rates in the country (Ma and Neeraj, 2008).

            Furthermore, the Chinese government is more committed than the Indian government at funding public health projects that are aimed at improving health outcomes of its population. Over the past fifty years, life expectancy in China has been increasing rapidly from approximately 39 percent to about 68 percent (Tang, Meng, Chen, Bekedam, Evana, and Whitehead, 2008). This has occurred due to the effort made by the Chinese government to support the implementation of public health policies.

The most recognizable initiative that was widely supported by the government is the Health China 2020, which was meant to address the problem of social inequality in health care and to improve the Chinese health care (Tang et al., 2008).  Conversely, India is suffering from inadequate public health support accompanied by significant disparities in the country’s health care system.

Consequently, poor implementation of public health policies in India is attributed to the higher mortality rates and burden of infectious diseases in India than in China (Mukherjee, Haddad and Narayana, 2011). Despite these differences, health outcomes of both India and China are greatly impacted by social and health care disparities in the two countries (Balarajan, Selvaraj, and Subramanian, 2011; & World Health Organization, 2005).

Comparison of Health Outcomes in Kerala and India

            Kerala state is located in India towards the southern regions of the country.  Surprisingly, the health outcomes of Kerala state are better than those of other parts of India, and this is evidenced by variations in both health and social indicators. As Mukherjee, Haddad and Narayana, (2011) explain, Kerala has experienced high life expectancy rates as well as reduced burden of infectious diseases in the last half century. Kerala became a “model India State” because of exhibiting a demographic health pattern that matches those of developed countries like the United States.

The main reasons for improved health outcomes in Kerala are educational equality, increased access to primary health care, and effective implementation of public health policies (Mukherjee, Haddad and Narayana, 2011). Educational equality in Kerala state contributes to an increase in health care literacy among the state’s population.

Furthermore, effective implementation of public health policies in the region has greatly improved the quality of care offered by health care organizations, and this translates into high life expectancy rates and reduced burden of infectious diseases (Mukherjee, Haddad and Narayana, 2011).


India and China are among countries of the world that are currently experiencing almost similar rates of economic growth. However, the two nations have experienced different health outcomes in the last fifty years. The main reasons behind variations in health outcomes between China and India are differences in health literacy levels and implementation of health care policy between the two countries. Although Kerala is a state in India, its health outcomes differ considerably from the rest of India.


Balarajan, Y., Selvaraj, S. & Subramanian, S. V. (2011). Health care and equity in India. Lancet, 377(9764): 505-515.

Bardhan, P. (2008). The state of health services in China and India in a larger context. Health Affairs, Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f9bd/1636dfa085748821241535eda868b8db4e2c.pdf

Kanjilal, B., Mazumdar, P., Mukherjee, M. & Rahman, M. (2010). Nutritional status of children in India: Household socio-economic condition as the contextual determinant. International Journal for Equity in Health, 9(1): 19-31.

Ma, S. & Neeraj, S. (2008). A comparison of the health systems in China and India. Santa Monice, CA: RAND Corporation.

Mukherjee, S., Haddad, S. & Narayana, D. (2011). Social class related inequalities in household health expenditure and economic burden: Evidence from Kerala, South India. International Journal for Equity in Health, 10(1):1-13.

Tang, S., Meng, Q., Chen, L., Bekedam, H., Evana, T. & Whitehead, M. (2008). Tackling the challenges to health equity in China. Lancet, 372(9648): 1493-1501.

World Health Organization. (2005). China: Health, poverty, and economic development. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/macrohealth/action/CMH_China.pdf

Yip, W. & Mahal, A. (2008). The health care systems of China and India: Performance and future challenges. Health Affairs, 27(4): 921-932.

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