While Chinese President Hu Jintao is being entertained by U.S. President Barack Obama, and the U.S. House of Representatives votes to repeal the Obama administration's healthcare reform law, both U.S. healthcare and Sino-American relations are the main components today of a less highly publicized event.

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Commerce joined with China's Ministries of Health and Commerce to announce their support for the establishment a new public-private partnership in the healthcare sector.

The economic and social development of any nation depends on the health and productivity of its people, said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This partnership builds on a strong foundation of bilateral cooperation in this critical sector of our economies.

Twelve U.S. companies and six supporting organizations will participate in this partnership, alongside the supporting U.S. and Chinese government agencies. The partnership will be organized around U.S. healthcare industry strengths and government capabilities to foster long-term cooperation with China in the areas of research, training, regulation and the adoption of an environment that will increase accessibility to healthcare services in China.

Participating U.S. companies include 3M, Abbott, Chindex, Cisco, General Electric, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Microsoft, Motorola, and Pfizer. Supporting organizations include AdvaMed, the Alliance for Healthcare Competitiveness, the American Chamber of Commerce in China, the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, PhRMA and the U.S.-China Business Council.

This public-private partnership provides China an important private sector resource to draw from to help with key development issues, while also identifying for U.S. companies projects that have been designated priority development projects by China, USTDA Director Leocadia Zak said.

Through programs supported by the initiative, Chinese participants will gain greater access to U.S. private sector expertise and ingenuity and better awareness of new technologies and results-oriented regulatory processes, U.S. officials said.

Initially, these goals will be advanced through a USTDA-funded Healthcare Professional Personnel Exchange Program that will include a series of visits by Chinese healthcare officials to the United States to share best practices and witness new and innovative technologies that will be important to long-term healthcare delivery.

One of the supporting organizations, the Alliance for Healthcare Competitiveness, which represents both for-profit and non-profit U.S. healthcare employers, and whose stated mission is to open global markets to U.S. healthcare exports, has provided an outline of China's healthcare market and potential.

According to the alliance:

  • The Chinese government plans to have universal healthcare and equal access to public services for its 1.3 billion people by 2020.
  • China's annual expenditure on healthcare is expected to triple over 10 years, from 2008 to 2018.
  • Reform plans outlined by the Chinese government include plans to spend $14.7 billion by building 2,000 county hospitals - one for each region- and 29,000 town hospitals.
  • Over the next three years, the country will train 1.37 million village doctors and 160,000 community doctors.
  • In 2007, the market size for medical devices in China was estimated at $11.2 billion, and is forecast to reach $20.6 billion by 2012.
  • About 75 percent of medical devices currently used in Chinese medical and healthcare institutions were produced before 1980. This underscores both the need and potential for future market growth as old devices are increasingly being replaced by new ones.
  • China is now among the top five in worldwide drug markets in terms of overall size.
  • Pharmaceutical sales in China are forecasted to grow at double-digit rates and reach $28.3 billion by 2010. Rising per-capita drug expenditures, supported by strong economic growth, will further feed market gains.
  • Healthcare IT spending in China is expected to grow from just over $2 billion in 2009 to $3.8 billion in 2012.

The partnership will draw its strength from U.S. companies strategically working together to help China achieve its development goals that will open new export markets for U.S. goods and services, said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

U.S. officials said that, over time, the partnership will enhance cooperation in areas such as rural healthcare, emergency response, personnel training, medical information technology, and management systems; while also exploring ways to support other fields such as integrative and traditional Chinese medicine. These programs will enhance both sides' knowledge of best practices, management, technological developments, and other healthcare-related topics.