Corruption, an infectious disease

 Corruption in health care system is more than losing money. It is hazardous to our health and has spillover effects beyond its borders. It’s as dangerous as an infectious disease.

 Let’s go back to 2008. There is a baby formula scandal in China. The chemical called melamine used to make plastic and sometimes as a fertilizer has been added to milk products including baby formula in order to cause it to appear to have higher protein content. 

The scandal broke on July, after sixteen infants in Gansu Province who had been fed on milk powder produced by Sanlu Group, the market leader in the dairy industry, were diagnosed with kidney stones. After the initial focus on Sanlu, government inspections revealed the problem existed to a lesser degree in products from 21 other companies. By November 2008 China reported an estimated 300,000 victims, six infants dying from kidney stones and other kidney diseases, and a further 860 babies hospitalized. The issue raised concerns about food safety and political corruption in mainland China.

However, this is not the end of story. The globalization make the hazard spread to all over the world. At the time of the event, at least 11 countries including U.S. and New Zealand stopped all imports of mainland Chinese dairy products. The affected products are broader than you can imagine. The FDA list of recalled products includes cookies, candies, instant coffee, tea products. Despite of the recall, millions of people already ate food containing the poisonous chemical. In the previous year, FDA also found same chemical in the pet food. The chemical is added to an ingredient called wheat gluten to fake the pet food contains high protein. That sickened and killed cats and dogs across the country. Considering deaths of pets are not fully investigated in most cases, the loss will be greater than the reported number. Who can imagine his/her pet died from the corruption in China?

Covering up corruption and official mismanagement in health care is a common response among Chinese officials. Local officials often prioritize economic gain at the expense of public health.  Again, at the end of March this year, Chinese newspaper reported that four children died and many more fell ill in Shanxi province after receiving vaccines that were not properly stored. The heat-sensitive vaccines had been taken out of air-conditioned rooms because government labels-required to show that the vaccines had been bought from official suppliers at inflated prices-would not adhere to cold vials. The result? An untold number of children are now vulnerable to polio and other diseases.

The repeated corruption scandal in China is not their own problem in a globalized world. Many multinational brand food products are produced in their China factory and some of food ingredient and additives made in China are not even shown in the the label of the product. China’s food and drugs export is increasing every year. Nobody can be fully safe from the risk! That can be one of the real reason we should care about the corruption of health in developing countries and do something to help them to prevent the reccurence of the scandal.


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