Burden of Disease in China Contrasting Disease Burden Patterns of the General and the Migrant Workers Populations

One of China’s major challenges in terms of socio-demographic changes and population health is the large mobile population mainly represented by rural-to-urban migrant workers. After enacting of the “open door-policy” in 1978, economic growth, particularly in the large coastal urban centres, dramatically accelerated. Massive urbanization processes took place fuelled by rural-to-urban migration. The sheer quantity of these ruralto-urban migrant workers highlights the importance of this group for societal changes and population health in China. This also concerns the influence of migrant workers’ specific disease burdens and their health-related behaviours on the health of the Chinese population in general. Despite the obvious significance for population health in China, there is no systematic burden of disease (BoD) assessment available for the migrant subgroup. The BoD approach, a comparative methodology enabling, among other things, the analyses of the distribution of diseases and symptoms and their temporal changes within and between countries, was used to describe the “background” disease burden in the general population, focusing the typical age group of migrant workers (aged 15 to 49 years). This detailed description should highlight the most important disease patterns in the general population in this age group in China. By means of a BoD assessment and the analysis of the specific health-related characteristics of migrant workers reported by the available key literature, this paper aims at describing the disease burdens of migrants and their specific health needs in contrast to those of the general population. The paper further discusses the potential influence of this large subpopulation on the health status of the general Chinese population.