Roo Changizi, chair of the Center for Family Medicine and Integrative Health Care at Beijing United Family Hospital, spoke with media
In Canada, family doctors play a pivotal role in improving healthcare for patients. Many studies indicate that the health of the population is better in areas where well-trained family doctors operate; fewer people are hospitalized, there are fewer complications and the rate of surgical intervention is lower.
General practitioners look at illness at the very early stages. They can "feel" the pulse of the community, and as they have known many of their patients from childhood they can understand how they evolve through changes when they develop illnesses such as diabetes. These factors help them to better help people and prevent and cure illness.
Canada has promoted these services for more than 50 years, so GPs are well respected and paid as much as other specialists who work in leading hospitals.
In Canada, the job requirements are demanding and GP training is rigorous: Physicians must have years of experience and training after graduation before they can become family doctors.
Unlike specialists, family doctors need to have a very deep understanding of almost every field of medicine and they must constantly work to keep their knowledge up to date.
Family medicine has different branches, and Canadian GPs can specialize in certain fields, such as emergency treatment, sports-related injuries, bone diseases or elderly care. Some family doctors work in rural areas far from big cities, so they have to carry medical equipment and medications with them at all times.
The aim is for everyone to have a doctor, but there is a shortage of qualified personnel, so many people in Canada still do not have a GP.
I think the biggest problem in the promotion of GP services in China is a lack of qualified doctors. But I think once China puts its mind to doing something it is pretty much guaranteed because the country has the resources and the vision.
I believe the authorities will be able to realize the family medicine program.
China can learn from Canada and European countries by digesting their experiences, but it will take time for family medicine and services to develop and mature.