Health Disparities in India and China

Subject: Public Health
Pages: 4
Words: 762
Reading time:
4 min


This paper evaluates the health outcomes of India and China by comparing their health indicators. It shows that both countries have experienced different health outcomes, in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality rates. In line with this discussion, this paper explores the reasons for the health disparities between both nations and investigates how a small state in India (Kerala) has escaped India’s poor health outcomes and rivaled China by reporting positive health outcomes.

Two Health Outcomes which India and China have had Different Experiences in the Last Century

In the last century, India and China have embarked on various forms of economic and political reform. Although these changes have led to improved economic outcomes for both nations, health indicators have varied. China has done a better job at improving its health outcomes in the last century, compared to India. Life expectancy is one such outcome because China has a higher life expectancy of 73.5 years, while India has a life expectancy of 64.4 years (CIA, 2014). Similarly, China has an infant mortality rate of 12, while India’s infant mortality rate is 43 (CIA, 2014). These statistics show that India and China have had different health outcomes in the last century.

Reasons for the Health Disparities between India and China

There are many reasons for the varying health outcomes between India and China. One issue is funding. China allocates more money to the health care sector than India does. In detail, Dummer and Cook (2008) say that the communist nation allocates 2.7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to healthcare. Comparatively, India allocates only 1.2% of its GDP to the same sector (Dummer & Cook, 2008). Illiteracy is also another issue that has contributed to India’s poor health outcomes. Many South Asian countries recognized the importance of education as a precursor to improved health outcomes. They invested in the same. Such was the case with China (Tang et al., 2008). However, India paid little attention to this fact, and now suffers poor health care outcomes (Kanjilal, Mazumdar, Mukherjee, & Rahman, 2010).

Kerala’s Experiences and its Difference with the rest of India

Although this paper shows that India trails China by having poor health outcomes, some Indian states have improved health outcomes. One such state is Kerala. While the infant mortality rate in India is about 44.0, Kerala has an infant mortality rate of 6.7 (this is the same level as China) (CIA, 2014). Similarly, while the rest of India has a life expectancy of 63 years, Kerala has a life expectancy of 74 years (CIA, 2014). There are many reasons for the varied health outcomes between Kerala and the rest of India. For example, Kerala’s health care model is community-based (Mukherjee, Haddad, & Narayana, 2011). The state funds this health care model.

Furthermore, community members and organizations make small contributions to this health care model. This structure ensures the health care system receives adequate funding, unlike the underfunded national health care model (Balarajan, Selvaraj, & Subramanian, 2008). Kerala has also focused on improving upstream health factors as a precursor of good health outcomes. For example, it has improved the standard of living for its citizens by promoting land reform (National Informatics Centre, Government of India, 2014).

Similarly, the state has low health inequities. For example, it has a small gender divide and low illiteracy levels (National Informatics Centre, Government of India, 2014). Therefore, residents of Kerala have a greater access to health information and health care services compared to the rest of India.


Improvements in economic outcomes do not necessarily translate to improved health outcomes. This lesson emerges in this paper because although China and India have enjoyed improved economic outcomes, they do not have the same health outcomes. Prioritization of health needs and differences in health care management systems emerge as the main determinants of health outcomes. For example, China has prioritized its health needs better than India does. This is why the communist nation allocates more resources to health care services than India does. Management affects health outcomes as well.

This fact manifests in how Kerala manages its health care system. Besides focusing on upstream health factors, the state adopts a community-based health care model that caters to the needs of its people. This is why it has reported better health outcomes than the rest of India. Overall, these findings highlight important lessons that the rest of the world could learn about health care management. Particularly, the health disparities between China and India could offer important lessons to other developing nations about how to improve their health outcomes.


Balarajan, Y., Selvaraj, S., &Subramanian, S. (2008). Health care and equity in India. Lancet, 377(9764), 1493–515.

CIA. (2014). Infant Mortality Rate. Web.

Dummer, T. J. B., & Cook, I. G. (2008). Health in China and India: A cross-country comparison in a context of rapid globalisation. Social Science & Medicine, 67(4), 590–605.

Kanjilal, B., Mazumdar, P. G., Mukherjee, M., & Rahman, M. H. (2010). Nutritional status of children in India: Household socio-economic condition as the contextual determinant. International Journal for Equity in Health, 9(1), 19–31.

Mukherjee, S., Haddad, S., & Narayana, D. (2011). Social class related inequalities in household health expenditure and economic burden: Evidence from Kerala, south India. International Journal for Equity in Health, 10(1), 1–13.

National Informatics Centre, Government of India. (2014). Know India—Kerala health. Web.

Tang, S., Meng, Q., Chen, L., Bekedam, H., Evans, T., & Whitehead, M. (2008). Tackling the challenges to health equity in China. Lancet, 372(9648), 1493–1501.