BEIJING, April 18 -- The life expectancy of Chinese women has increased from 73.33 years in 2000 to 77.37 years in 2013, indicating considerable improvement in their health, according to new data revealed by health authorities.
The rate of maternal death was reduced in the period to 23.2 in every 100,000 women, down 56.2 percent from that of 2000, said Wang Guoqiang, vice minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), at a national conference on healthcare for women and children on Thursday.
The mortality rate for infants and children under five years old also dropped 70.5 percent and 69.8 percent respectively, Wang said.
But he also pointed out difficulties and challenges in maternal and child healthcare.
Greater efforts are needed to realize the UN Millennium Development Goals on health.
China's maternal death rate lags behind the UN goal. Although its mortality rate of children under five has met the UN goal, 200,000 Chinese children die every year, the fifth highest number worldwide, according to Wang.
It is both very urgent and difficult to improve women's and children's health in the less developed west of China and the country's rural areas as well as among its migrant population, he noted.
There are severe discrepancies in the health of women and children in urban and rural areas, as well as from different regions and communities.The maternal death rate in west China is 2.5 times that of east China and the infant mortality rate of rural areas 2.4 times greater than the urban figure.
Prominent health risks suffered by Chinese women include breast cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia, while the high rates of cesarean sections and infertility among women of childbearing age have become alarming public health problems, said Wang.
In recent years, birth defects have accounted for 19.1 percent of infant deaths, making this the second-biggest cause of infant mortality in China.
The country still lacks basic maternal and childcare health facilities and lags behind in service network building because of a shortage of public health professionals.
And the demand for reproductive, maternal and neonatal health services is set to increase as China has loosened its decades-long one-child policy by allowing couples to have two children if one of them is an only child.
Li Bin, minister in charge of the NHFPC, stressed during the conference that health departments will focus on sound allocation of medical resources and boosting capacity in providing better obstetrics services.