A Sense of Crisis as China Confronts Ailments of Affluence

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Science  23 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5977, pp. 422-424
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5977.422

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China’s growing affluence is driving sharp increases in what were once considered scourges of the Western world: lung and breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cerebro- and cardiovascular diseases. A rapidly changing lifestyle appears to be to blame, as Chinese are smoking more; consuming more fat, sugar, salt, and refined grains; and leading increasingly sedentary lives, particularly in cities and booming coastal regions. Somehow, most Chinese have not grasped that lifestyle changes change disease risks. Ignorance and a health care system focused on infectious diseases mean China faces a huge pending burden from behavior-driven illnesses. Fledgling efforts to retrain doctors to handle lifestyle diseases early and to raise awareness about disease prevention need to be accelerated on a massive scale for China to stave off a crisis, say public health scientists.