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Remote healthcare scales new heights
By: Chinadaily

As the sun rose over the mountains, the village of Yaragiz stirred for a busy day ahead. It was the day that 90 families were due to undergo their annual health checkups.

Since 2016, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has invested more than 4 billion yuan ($564 million) in the project under the Healthy China initiative, with all residents entitled to free annual health checks.

At Yaragiz health clinic, villagers formed an orderly line as they registered for blood tests, electrocardiograms, ultrasound scans and X-rays. Medics from the Xihxu township hospital were also on hand to explain available health services and disseminate healthcare advice.

Before the launch of the project, many elderly rural residents had never heard of health checkups, let alone seen modern medical equipment. Today, they are living healthier, happier lives.

Eziz Hudaberdi, from the township hospital's health examination department, said that in the past residents of remote areas like Yaragiz seldom ate vegetables and tended to lack vitamins. However, a cursory glance at the local greenhouses, bursting with potatoes, cabbages, chiles and tomatoes shows that the situation is changing.

Xihxu township is 2,000 kilometers from Urumqi, the regional capital. It administers nine villages scattered across different valleys. The most remote one is 200 km from the township.

To ensure that all residents have their annual health checkups, teams from the township hospital have paid house calls in the 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 steep inclines.

"That's why we come to the villages every year. We hope to save them the trouble and money," Eziz said.

One Yaragiz resident said: "It's much more convenient to get a health checkup here instead of in town. 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 8-month-old daughter, he makes the most of any free time to call home. But away from the community, the phone signal is nonexistent, and the new father has to take consolation in looking at 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," he said.

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