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Development of Palliative Care in China: A Tale of Three Cities.

ABSTRACT

China is the most populous country in the world, but access to palliative care is extremely limited. A better understanding of the development of palliative care programs in China and how they overcome the barriers to provide services would inform how we can further integrate palliative care into oncology practices in China. Here, we describe the program development and infrastructure of the palliative care programs at three Chinese institutions, using these as examples to discuss strategies to accelerate palliative care access for cancer patients in China.Case study of three palliative care programs in Chengdu, Kunming, and Beijing.The three examples of palliative care delivery in China ranged from a comprehensive program that includes all major branches of palliative care in Chengdu, a program that is predominantly inpatient-based in Kunming, and a smaller program at an earlier stage of development in Beijing. Despite the numerous challenges related to the limited training opportunities, stigma on death and dying, and lack of resources and policies to support clinical practice, these programs were able to overcome many barriers to offer palliative care services to patients with advanced diseases and to advance this discipline in China through visionary leadership, collaboration with other countries to acquire palliative care expertise, committed staff members, and persistence.Palliative care is limited in China, although a few comprehensive programs exist. Our findings may inform palliative care program development in other Chinese hospitals.With a population of 1.3 billion, China is the most populous country in the world, and cancer is the leading cause of death. However, only 0.7% of hospitals offer palliative care services, which significantly limits palliative care access for Chinese cancer patients. Here, we describe the program development and infrastructure of three palliative care programs in China, using these as examples to discuss how they were able to overcome various barriers to implement palliative care. Lessons from these programs may help to accelerate the progress of palliative cancer care in China.