Health challenges

Supporting nearly one quarter of the world’s population, the dramatic economic, social and political changes in recent years has had a major, but uneven, impact upon health and well-being in China.

Disease burden has largely shifted from communicable to non-communicable diseases and injuries for a significant portion of the population, while in other parts of the community morbidity and mortality from preventable and treatable illness remains high.

With a complex health financing system decentralised to the lowest administrative level, there is widespread reliance on service fees and long-standing underinvestment in public health service. This has caused major inequalities between eastern and western China, rich and poor, and urban and rural populations.

China still faces significant challenges to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, particularly on HIV, gender, maternal and child health, and environmental sustainability. A major health reform package announced by the Ministry of Health in 2008 is well underway and is making significant improvements in priority areas.

Major health challenges facing the country according to the World Health Organisation include:

  • increasingly elderly population
  • accelerated migration from rural areas to urban centres
  • communicable diseases and malnutrition have a major impact on health, especially in less developed areas (such as western China), and particularly among young children
  • lower respiratory infections, hepatitis B and tuberculosis cause significant morbitity and mortality
  • infant and under-five mortality rates remain high where access to services is low, due to communicable diseases and perinatal conditions.

Burnet’s work

The multi-disciplinary China Program Team is guiding the development of a strategic plan for long-term engagement with China. We are involved in a range of activities including:

  • Community health activities with a focus on sexual/reproductive health and HIV in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

  • Consultancies in health policy, harm reduction, advocacy and programs for men who have sex with men, infectious disease planning and control, and laboratory strengthening.

  • Training and creation of influential guidelines for clinical practice applicable to all county hospitals and township clinics in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

  • Burnet has been implementing community-based health and HIV prevention projects in the Tibet Autonomous Region since 1997. We have worked with both the general community and vulnerable/disadvantaged groups (such as female sex workers and their clients) to promote awareness and prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) through participatory approaches which aim to empower communities.

  • Building on the success of the Tibet Health Sector Support Program (THSSP), the Governments of China and Australia are supporting the Tibet Health Capacity Building Program.

The Tibet Health team with Madam Yufei, Vice Director of the Tibet Regional Health Bureau and Tibet Health Chinese Team Leader (centre), Rebecca Bradley (Burnet Melbourne office), Li Bin (second from right) from Tibet Regional Health Bureau and Professor Li Shunping (far right) from Shandong University.

Contact Details

For more information about our work in China, please contact:

Burnet Institute




Current Projects

  • Access Point Of Care Initiative

  • Gender Counts

  • Improved point-of-care test to eliminate congenital syphilis

  • Rapid review of maternal health recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Sexual and reproductive health in Asia and the Pacific

  • SRH survey of Chinese-speaking international students

Past Projects

  • ALT point-of-care diagnostic to detect liver disease

  • Strengthening the control of tuberculosis: China and Australia's partnership

  • TB-MAC Multi-modelling Exercise