As the sun rose over the mountains, the village of Yaragiz woke up for a busy day. It was the day that some 90 families were due to undergo their annual health check-up.
Since 2016, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has invested more than 4 billion yuan ($564 million) in just one project under the "Healthy China" initiative. Today in this northwestern region of China, all residents are entitled to free annual health checks.
At Yaragiz health clinic, villagers formed orderly queues as they registered for blood tests, electrocardiograms, ultrasound scans, and X-rays. Medics from the township hospital were also on hand to explain available health services and disseminate healthcare advice.
Before the launch of this project, many elderly rural residents had never heard of health check-ups, let alone seen modern medical equipment. Today, they are living healthy, happier lives.
Eziz Hudaberdi, from the Xihxu township hospital health examination department, said that residents of remote areas like Yaragiz seldom ate vegetables and tended to lack vitamins. Just a cursory glance at the local greenhouses, bursting with potatoes, cabbages, chilies, and tomatoes shows that this situation is changing.
Xihxu township is around 2,000 km from Urumqi, the regional capital. It administers nine villages scattered across different valleys, the most remote village is 200 km away from the township seat.
To ensure that all residents can have their annual health check-ups, teams from the township hospital have paid house calls in remote villages over the past five years.
To reach Yaragiz, which is 3,500 meters above sea level, Eziz and his colleagues have to navigate narrow, winding mountain roads as well as three mountain passes. Along the way are steep, barren slopes, where falling stones or landslides are a regular threat. The 72-km trip takes even the most experienced driver three hours to finish.
A one-way bus trip to the town costs 100 yuan, so many Yaragiz residents choose to go by motorbike, even though they have to push the bikes up some of the steepest inclines.
"That's why we come to the villages every year. We hope to save them the trouble and money," said Eziz.
"It's much more convenient to get a health check-up here instead of in town," said one Yaragiz resident, "It's a huge task -- even for the young lads -- to get here."
Eziz and his team have not been home for a month. Unable to see his eight-month-old daughter, he makes the most of any free time to call home. But away from the community, the phone signal is non-existent, and the new father has to take consolation in photos on his phone.
"Despite the high mountains and long roads, we must take good care of the health of these villagers. No one should be left behind."