Global funding helps establish China's first chronic disease center of excellence

Chinese, US and Australian medical researchers have today announced the first global health initiative designed to tackle the massive health threat of chronic disease in China.

China is the largest developing nation in the world and has undergone dramatic social and economic change over the last few decades, with a dramatic shift in the pattern of diseases. China’s major health threats are chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer now account for more than three-quarters of all deaths.

In recognition of this change, the first ever Center of Excellence will be established in China to improve prevention and control of cardiovascular health care, stroke, coronary heart disease and other common cardiovascular conditions. The center will conduct major clinical research within a short timeframe. Until now, little effort has been made by key international players to address this major and largely avoidable rise in deaths due to chronic disease.

"With the burden of chronic disease in China projected to rise substantially over coming years, high-quality research and health improvement is a priority. With concerted action, we can address this", said Professor WU Yangfeng, Director of The George Institute, China, where the center will be based, in partnership with Peking University Health Science Center. The George Institute, China was established in 2006 and conducts high-quality, large-scale research in the areas of hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes and injury.

Research projects at the Center will include a major rural health initiative targeting cardiovascular disease in rural China assessing rural Chinese risk factors, such as high blood pressure. A series of projects will also assess other strategies for prevention and management of chronic diseases such as tobacco control, salt reduction, obesity and women’s heart health.

"This research will give health care providers and policy makers in China reliable new evidence about the best strategies for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. We intend to also train and develop future leaders and develop local capacity to ensure positive changes are sustainable. It is also important to raise awareness of chronic disease in China through advocacy and engagement with policy makers", he added.

The center is one of 11 centers announced today, based in developing countries across the world, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the US National Institutes of Health and UnitedHealth Group.

In China, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death, responsible for about 2.6 million deaths each year, and major disease risk factors such as tobacco, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity are now widely distributed throughout the Chinese population.

Principal Director of The George Institute, Professor Stephen MacMahon added, "Annually, 8 million people die from heart disease and stroke alone. The majority of these and other deaths caused by chronic disease occur in the developing world where victims are often workers, whose deaths directly result in poverty for families and other dependents. These deaths are largely avoidable, and substantive effort to address this issue must take place now."

China has always been a focus of The George Institute, due to its enormous population and the health challenges it faces in becoming one of the leading world economies. The establishment, in 2006, of The George Institute, China reflects the Institute’s continued significant commitment to working in China and in particular its commitment to building local capacity.

Leading Chinese and international institutions partnering to support the Center of Excellence, China include:

  • The George Institute China (where the Center of excellence will be based)
  • The Peking University Health Sciences Center, Beijing, China
  • The George Institute, Sydney, Australia
  • The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  • The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australi
  • The Imperial College, London, United Kingdom
  • The Duke Global Health Institute, North Carolina, The United States of America
  • The China Medical University, Liaoning, China
  • The School of Public Health of the Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China
  • The Hebei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Hebei, China
  • The Ningxia Medical University School of Public Health, Ningxia, China
  • The Changzhi Medical College, Changzhi, China

The George Institute, China is a joint venture with the Peking University Health Sciences Center, Beijing and the University of Sydney in Australia with whom it has established Memoranda of Understanding.