'Big Bone' Disease Fades in China
Decades of field work and public health interventions have resulted in a decline in Kashin-Beck disease, locally known as ‘Big Bone’ disease. The disease which causes disproportionate stunted growth and joint deformities was widely found in rural areas of China. The Wall Street Journal covered this story:
The disease is now on the wane, after long-term study of the villagers, many of whom traditionally lived in caves, led to large-scale public-health interventions focused on nutrition, hygiene and sometimes moving whole villages to another location.
In 2009, the number of people living with the disease was down to 700,000 of whom only about 18,000 were children. Researchers expect the 2010 data to show further declines in cases.
Kashin-Beck “is an environmental, society and medical disease,” said Dr. Guo. “If these [factors] can be controlled, we’ll eradicate the disease.”
It is a rare victory over a condition that disproportionately affects the rural poor, accomplished by dint of extensive, often grueling field work. The effort also represents a major public-health commitment in a country that until recently left its citizens to seek out and pay for health care largely on their own.