|Children receive free hepatitis B vaccine in Lianyuan, Hunan province, as part of the government's efforts to control the infectious disease. (Zhang Yang / Asia News Photo)|
China is to further standardize and streamline the diagnosis and treatment for hepatitis B in hospitals in rural areas to reduce the social damage caused by the disease.
Hepatitis B is one of the most widely spread contagious diseases in the country, with about 20 million sufferers, of which about 11 million live in rural areas, according to official statistics.
Rainbow Project, a national program providing training to medical staff on how to diagnose and treat hepatitis B, is to extend its coverage to more villages, towns and small counties over the next three years, according to the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, initiator of the program.
"With the wide use of hepatitis B vaccine, the transmission of the disease on a national level has been controlled. However, the infectious disease is still a major medical challenge to our society," says Jiao Yahui, an official with the medical administration division of the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
China has a huge population of hepatitis B carriers and patients, but in many areas diagnosis and treatment is poor because doctors and patients lack proper knowledge, Jiao says.
"We aimed to improve the diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis B in small hospitals when initiating the program," says Yang Min, secretary-general with the association.
The association launched the project in mid-2010, with sponsorship from GlaxoSmithKline China.
The project organizes rural doctors to take part in its onsite, centralized, or long-distance training.
It has trained about 37,000 doctors at rural hospitals from 1,168 counties in 19 provinces.
A recent survey found there is a big increase in correct use of antiviral therapy among doctors who have received the training.
The association now plans to introduce online information exchange between rural doctors and top experts from big hospitals, and get more areas involved in the program, especially underprivileged places.
"We are going to involve more village and county doctors into the program, but we also hope the whole society will make more efforts to help hepatitis carriers and patients," Yang says.
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