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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

Cost of Illness and Coping Strategies in Rural China

Yuansheng Jiang1, Abay Asfaw2, Joachim von Braun3

1Sichuan Agricultural University, Center for Rural Development Research, China
2University of Bonn, Centre for Development Research (ZEF), Germany
3International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), United States of America


This study tries to investigate the strategies of households to cope with cost of illness in Southwestern China. A 300-households survey was conducted in Sichuan province in 2002. The strategies for coping with cost of illness was explored by describing coping behaviours, identifying levels at which health risk is coped, analysing the sequence of strategies adoption and making a judgement of success in coping. Results reveal that, though the economic costs of illness inclusive of monetary and time costs of illness is moderate (US$ 442/HH/year) compared with other developing countries such as Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, the share of economic costs of illness in household annual income (29%) is sufficiently high to adversely affect basic food consumption, and may induce poverty under some circumstances. Whether or not the costs of illness induce poverty depends to a large extent upon the household’s capacity of coping with the costs. Findings show that, consistent with previous studies, household is the basic unit of risk coping. Seventy-two percent of illness episodes were successfully financed within households through a variety of strategies such as cash, savings, sale of agricultural products, livestock or other assets. Among ten coping strategies, using cash and savings is most common and transfer from relatives is an important last resort. The extended family played a big role in coping with relatively large costs of illness, with 22 percent of the illness episodes seeking financial aid from households within the extended family. The rural households in Sichuan province adopted strategies from from low-cost to high-cost ones, from within household to the extended family. In general, the coping is Successful.

Keywords: Coping strategy, cost of illness, extended family

Contact Address: Yuansheng Jiang, Sichuan Agricultural University, Center for Rural Development Research, Xinkang Road 36, 625014 Yaan, China, e-mail: yjiang@sicau.edu.cn

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