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Health and Demographic Change in China

The Health and Demographic Change in China initiative conducts research to help fill key gaps in assessing the effects of China’s evolving health policies.

China has faced many dramatic economic, demographic, and epidemiologic changes over the past few decades. A meteoric economic rise has led to rapid urbanization and a growing middle class, while steep declines in fertility and mortality rates have spawned a fast-aging society. China’s health system has not kept pace with modern standards and growing demand. With this backdrop, the Chinese government launched a series of sweeping public policy reforms in the mid-2000s to modernize its health system and mitigate the health problems exacerbated by the demographic changes. These policy reforms may pose critical implications for the health and financial well-being of China’s population, yet their impact is poorly understood. SCID’s Working Group on Demographic Change and Health Policy in China, formed in the fall of 2014, aims to fill this gap.

The initiative links Stanford researchers with peers at top Chinese universities to help fill key gaps in assessing the effects of China’s evolving health policies. The goal is to establish a strong foundation of data collection and collaborative research, providing useful, evidence-based feedback for policy developments not only within China but also beyond its borders. The world’s second-largest economy offers a unique lens on policy implementation for other developing nations.

The initiative encompasses three major research themes:

  • Examining the key determinants of population health and demographic change
  • Studying the consequences of China’s rapidly changing population
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of public policies aiming to address the country’s changing demographic and population health landscape

Specific areas of research include:

  • The rise in noncommunicable disease prevalence
  • Effects of environmental pollution
  • Inequities in health care quality
  • Low rates of insurance coverage
  • Deteriorating medical infrastructures
  • The underlying determinants of China’s rapid reductions in mortality and fertility rates

To carry out its mission, the Working Group will:

  • Identify and prioritize new and underutilized sources of data that can be collected at the individual, household, hospital or county level.
  • Embark on high-quality empirical studies of both the intended and unintended consequences of health policy reforms.
  • Host a series of workshops in China, bringing together policymakers and stakeholders – analysts and catalysts – to reveal and review research findings.

SCID’s continued interdisciplinary efforts for years to come will contribute to the needed analysis for China’s health policies. In turn, Stanford’s research will shed light on whether China’s series of reforms could serve as models to follow, missteps to avoid, or both.

Please contact Kimberly Babiarz ( with questions.