Firstly, you should know the importance of good medical insurance for a healthy life in China. The government introduced a general healthcare system for all urban workers and employees in the late 1990s. It has since expanded to include more of the general population, but suffers from some rather critical shortages and inadequacies.
As of October 15, 2011, foreign employees are officially included in the Chinese government’s health insurance plan as well. However, public healthcare does not necessarily meet expat needs. As such, if your employer does not already provide you with coverage, you should either purchase an international health insurance policy or private health insurance from a Chinese insurance provider.
Also, check your embassy’s health tips for more information on diseases common to the Beijing area, and familiarize yourself with their symptoms. At the moment, these include especially hand-foot-mouth-disease among babies and kids, hepatitis, rabies, and the rare case of avian influenza or Japanese encephalitis.
When preparing for a long-term stay in China, get the recommended vaccinations for tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (DTP), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), polio, hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhus, and Japanese encephalitis. You should also take a first-aid kit, a supply of prescription medication, and the necessary contraceptives with you before leaving for Beijing. Malaria, however, is only an issue in some provinces of southern China. In Beijing, no precautions against malaria or dengue fever are required.
If you are looking for a doctor or dentist in Beijing, be aware that it is customary in China to go and see a doctor at a clinic. Your embassy may have a list of hospitals as well as dental clinics with Western standards and medical staff fluent in English or your mother tongue. If your child attends an international school, they often have a small healthcare center or a school nurse who watches out for common children’s illnesses.
Recommended medical care providers include, among others:
If you have to attend a hospital, you often need to pay for your treatment on the spot; bigger international clinics may accept credit cards or debit cards as a method of payment. Your health insurance provider will reimburse you later. Since private clinics in China can be very expensive, make sure that your healthcare plan really covers the costs or that you have repatriation insurance to return home for a hospital stay, childbirth, etc.
Do you still have questions about hospitals in China? Our extended guide article covers different hospital types and also addresses cultural differences in how patients are treated.
As far as keeping healthy is concerned, both respiratory diseases and diarrhea are common ailments among foreigners living in Beijing. The former is due to the air pollution in the municipal area. To give you an idea of how bad it is, at the time of writing, Beijing had a concentration of fine particles of 460 micrograms per cubic meter, São Paulo 150, Moscow 70, Tokyo 60, London 50, and Sydney 25.
Please check the daily air quality with the US Embassy. If the rating is 100 or higher, little children, elderly people, and patients with respiratory or cardiovascular diseases should take particular care. Data released in 2014 show that in 2013, Beijing experienced 60 days of air pollution (smog) above emergency levels.
To avoid diarrhea, use only bottled mineral water for drinking, brushing your teeth, and doing the dishes. Boiled, filtered, and disinfected tap water might also do. Make liberal use of soap, disinfectant, and paper towels as well, and wash your hands as often as possible.
In case of emergency, call 110 (police), 119 (fire), 120 (ambulance), or 122 (traffic police). If your health insurance plan covers treatment at an international private clinic, you can also phone their alarm center or emergency department directly. Just in case, ask at your embassy for an emergency form with Chinese translations of important stock phrases useful in such situations, e.g. “Qing Bang Bang Wo!” – pronounced Ching Bang Bang Woh – means “please help me!”
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.