Inequities in the Allocation of Medical Resources in China's Township Health Centers

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to produce a high-quality measure of the nature of healthcare resources available in China’s Township Health Centers (THCs), paying particular attention to equity between high- and low-income areas.

Design/methodology/approach – This study makes use of data from a nearly nationally representative survey in rural China conducted by the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2011. The samples of towns were selected randomly from 25 counties located in five provinces from different regions of China. Data were collected through questionnaires and direct observation.

Findings The THCs located in rich areas have higher levels of human resources than poor areas. THCs in rich areas also have more fixed assets than those in poor areas. In fact, even though the Chinese Ministry of Health mandates that all THCs have certain basic levels of medical equipment and facilities, many THCs in poor areas do not have them. The allocation of mandated equipment is unequal.

Practical implications These findings suggest that Chinas government should pay more attention to THCs located in poor areas, especially in light of new initiatives to improve health care in poor rural areas.

Originality/value – This is the first nationally representative study to employ rigorous empirics to investigate the extent of inequality in allocation of resources within THCs across China.

Keywords China, Health, Inequality, Rural development, Medical resources, Township health centers

Paper type Research paper