Structural Determinants of Child Health in Rural China: The Challenge of Creating Health Equity


Over the past two decades, the literature has shown a clear gradient between child health and wealth. The same health– wealth gradient is also observed among children in China, with a large gap in health between rural and urban children. However, there are still unanswered questions about the main causes of China’s rural– urban child health inequality. This paper aims to review the major factors that have led to the relatively poor levels of health among China’s rural children. In addition to the direct income effect on children’s health, children in rural areas face disadvantages compared with their urban counterparts from the beginning of life: Prenatal care and infant health outcomes are worse in rural areas; rural caregivers have poor health outcomes and lack knowledge and support to provide adequate nurturing care to young children; there are large disparities in access to quality health care between rural and urban areas; and rural families are more likely to lack access to clean water and sanitation. In order to inform policies that improve health outcomes for the poor, there is a critical need for research that identifies the causal drivers of health outcomes among children. Strengthening the pediatric training and workforce in rural areas is essential to delivering quality health care for rural children. Other potential interventions include addressing the health needs of mothers and grandparent caregivers, improving parenting knowledge and nurturing care, improving access to clean water and sanitation for remote families, and most importantly, targeting poverty itself.

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health