China: Significant disparities in disease from unsafe water and sanitation, study shows

August 3, 2012
China: Significant disparities in disease from unsafe water and sanitation, study shows

(Medical Xpress) -- While the global community has struggled to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals regarding provision of safe water and sanitation, China is rightfully held up as a model, having dramatically expanded access to both over the past few decades.

In a study published in the August edition of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, researchers from Emory University reveal gaps in China’s tremendous progress towards providing safe and adequate sanitation.

Using data queried from multiple infectious disease surveillance systems, Justin V. Remais, PhD, assistant professor of environmental health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and colleagues at the University of Florida, the University of California-Berkeley, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, provide the first estimates of the burden of disease due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene in China at the provincial level.

These diseases include diarrhoeal disease, helminthiasis and schistosomiasis from exposure to contaminated soil and water, as well as vector-borne diseases that result from inadequate management of water resources, including malaria, dengue and Japanese encephalitis.

The researchers found that in 2008 approximately 327 million people in China lacked access to piped drinking water and 535 million lacked access to improved sanitation, leading to hundreds of millions of cases of diarrhoeal, parasitic and other infectious diseases. Unsafe water and and hygiene accounted for 62,800 deaths that year, and 2.81 million disability-adjusted life years, a measure of disease burden that includes morbidity as well as mortality.

Children under the age of 5 experienced more than 80 percent of the disease burden and the highest burden was found in inland provinces that have the lowest income per capita. 

"Our estimates capture pronounced geographic and demographic variability in morbidity and mortality," says Remais.

"China’s rapid economic growth has been accompanied by considerable improvement in water and sanitation infrastructure, and a reduction in poverty-associated infectious diseases. Our analysis confirmed these trends, but also highlights a substantial burden of disease that remains, and marked disparities in health outcomes."



Despite remarkable progress, the authors write, China still needs to improve infrastructure in provinces that have experienced slower economic development. Also, improved monitoring, increased regulatory oversight and more government transparency are needed to fully understand and respond to the effects of contaminated water and poor sanitation and hygiene on human health.

"Our analysis highlights the populations in greatest need of intervention," Remais says, "offering a baseline against which to assess the impact of China's future water, sanitation and hygiene improvements."


The study, 'Regional disparities in the burden of disease attributable to unsafe water and poor in China,' was supported in part by the Emory Global Health Institute.

Explore further: Study quantifies impact of unsafe water and poor sanitation on child and maternal mortality

Related Stories

Study quantifies impact of unsafe water and poor sanitation on child and maternal mortality

February 15, 2012
The impact of unsafe water and sanitation on the death rates of children under five and mothers in the year after childbirth has been quantified for the first time by Canadian-based researchers.

Pneumonia, diarrhea are top killers of kids: UNICEF

June 8, 2012
Pneumonia and diarrhea are among the top causes of childhood deaths around the world, particularly among the poor, said a report out Friday by the UN Children's Fund.

Availability and use of sanitation reduces by half the likelihood of parasitic worm infections

January 24, 2012
Access to sanitation facilities, such as latrines, reduces by half the risk of becoming infected by parasitic worms that are transmitted via soil (soil-transmitted helminths) according to a study published in this week's ...

Typhoid outbreak hits Zimbabwe

January 24, 2012
At least 90 people were admitted to hospital and over 600 affected in a typhoid outbreak in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, a health official said on Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Energy dense foods may increase cancer risk regardless of obesity status

August 17, 2017
Diet is believed to play a role in cancer risk. Current research shows that an estimated 30% of cancers could be prevented through nutritional modifications. While there is a proven link between obesity and certain types ...

Technology is changing Generation smartphone, and not always for the better

August 16, 2017
It's easy to imagine some graybeard long ago weighing in on how this new generation, with all its fancy wheels, missed out on the benefits of dragging stuff from place to place.

The environmental injustice of beauty

August 16, 2017
Women of color have higher levels of beauty-product-related chemicals in their bodies compared to white women, according to a commentary published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors say ...

Heavily used pesticide linked to breathing problems in farmworkers' children

August 15, 2017
Elemental sulfur, the most heavily used pesticide in California, may harm the respiratory health of children living near farms that use the pesticide, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.