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The Associated Press April 6, 2012, 4:22PM ET

Dartmouth to help with China health reform effort

Dartmouth College is spending the next five years helping China improve its health care system through a partnership that officials say could pay off at home as well.

China announced in 2009 it would pour $124 billion into changing the system to provide basic medical coverage and insurance for all of its 1.3 billion people. The effort includes a partnership between China's Ministry of Health and Dartmouth College, which is home to a national institute on health care delivery and is known for its research on medical treatments.

Dr. Minghui Ren, director-general of the ministry's Department of International Cooperation, led a delegation to New Hampshire this week to kick off the project. He and Dr. Albert Mulley, director of the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, are co-chairs of a committee steering the partnership.

Mulley said Chinese officials are eager to work with Dartmouth because of the research it has done on the dynamics of the health care economy and the questions it has raised about whether more health care is always better than less.

"Given that they spend currently less than 5 percent of their (gross domestic product) on health care, and they know that's going to grow, they really would like to learn along with us how to invest in health care reforms that really produce the most value," he said.

The U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP on health care and is the largest market-driven health care economy in the world. With China the largest emerging health care economy, "the thought here is that we all have a lot to learn from one another," Mulley said.

China faces some of the same problems seen in the United States, namely access to care, and overemphasis on specialty care, imaging and prescription drugs, Mulley said.

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