Could Beijing be the healthiest city in China?

Morning exercises in Beijing.
Morning exercises in Beijing.
Image: Reuters/Jason Lee
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Beijing, despite its reputation for dangerous levels of air pollution, choking traffic, and food scandals, is the healthiest city in China. At least, that’s the conclusion of a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released today. The Chinese capital owes its lofty rating to a campaign to overhaul its healthcare system.

China has launched a drive to provide universal healthcare by 2020 and improve a system riddled with inefficiency and corruption. According to the EIU’s estimates, China overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest healthcare market last year. By 2018, China’s healthcare spending is expected to double from 2012 levels, reaching $900 billion. Chinese officials have identified pharmaceutical research (paywall) as one of seven “pillar industries” to receive special promotion.

Beijing is reaping the benefits of the overhaul, with residents among the most aware of their healthcare options and able to access to medical care and insurance more readily than those in other areas, according to the EIU index. Beijing mothers do more pre- and-post natal check-ups than their counterparts in other provinces, and Beijing residents pay about 25% of their healthcare expenses out of pocket, lower than the national average of 35%, and 42% in neighboring Hebei, according to the report.

Still, Beijingers don’t rank the highest in every aspect of the EIU’s “Healthy Province Index.” The overall index is compiled from scores on the health status, awareness, resources, and financing of residents. In terms of current health levels, the balmy southern province of Hainan ranked top.

Here is the overall ranking of 31 municipalities and provinces analyzed in the report:

1. Beijing
2. Shanghai
3. Zhejiang
4. Qinghai
5. Gansu
6. Shanxi
7. Sichuan
8. Jiangsu
9. Shandong
10. Shaanxi
11. Liaoning
12. Tianjin
13. Fujian
14. Ningxia
15. Xinjiang
16. Guangdong
17. Guangxi
18. Inner Mongolia
19. Hainan
20. Guizhou
21. Tibet
22. Chongqing
23. Jiangxi
24. Hunan
25. Heilongjiang
26. Jilin
27. Hubei
28. Henan
29. Yunnan
30. Hebei
31. Anhui