This is a continued feature multi-part blog post written by our Executive Director, Alanna Hendren. Alanna will be blogging about her recent experience flying off to China as the leader of the People-to-People Psychiatric Services and Developmental Disabilities Delegation. Every Tuesday and Friday, we will be posting about her journey in China, the developmental services offered there, and the people there. To read the first part, follow this link.
To provide us with an overall context to China’s service delivery system, Dr. Qiu, Director of Information at the China Rehabilitation Research Center and Vice Secretary General of the China Disabled Person’s Federation (CDPF), spoke to us during our first afternoon. The CDPF was established in 1988 as a nationwide umbrella network reaching every part of China and representing the interests of people with disabilities, helping to protect their rights. They are also commissioned by the Chinese government to supervise affairs relating to people with disabilities.
Dr. Qiu pointed out that China is a developing country and their social and rehabilitation systems that are also developing. A 2006 national survey determined that there were over 80 million people with disabilities who had relatively urgent needs. These people live in areas where there are many regional differences between the 32 provincial administrative regions. Average life expectancy is projected to reach 85 by the year 2050, since China now has the world’s third largest economy, behind the U.S. and Japan, and is the world’s second largest exporter, with a GDP of $7.916 trillion (compared to 2008 reports of $14.264 trillion in the U.S. and $1.51 trillion in Canada) or $5,963 U.S. per capita (compared to $46,859 U.S. and $39,183 in Canada).
Because of the rapid modernization and growth of China’s economy, the widening rural/urban income and education gap is the biggest social problem today. Pollution, particularly water pollution is another major challenge. A very large percentage of China’s people live in poverty. 60% of the people continue to live on small farms, 10% are migrant workers and 30% live in the city, some in poverty. Based on a World Health Organization (WHO) survey in 2006, 6.34% of China’s population had a disability, compared to a world average (U.N. estimate) of over 10%. A registration system in China entitles individuals with disabilities to benefits, which include cash, food and some health care coverage. Disability rates are much higher in rural areas, where there are the least services. Of children with disabilities, a 2005 WHO survey indicated that genetic defects were the major cause of infant death and disability worldwide and that half of children with serious birth defects who died were born in poorer countries. This accounted for the very few people we saw or heard of with what we would label as profound or severe developmental disabilities. 0.8% or 1.2 million children are born with congenital disabilities in China each year. Of children with disabilities; 9% have challenges hearing; 6.2% with vision; 54.21% are intellectually challenged; 24.69 have physical challenges; and 5.91% have psychiatric problems, including autism and ADHD, both escalating in prevalence in China as in the rest of the world. 65% to 75% of the causes of these disabilities are ‘complex genetic factors’. Other causes include folic acid deficiency, iodine deficiency, inter-marriages; lack of prenatal care, accidents, poisoning, anoxia at birth and causes that are unknown.