Health of China's rural-urban migrants and their families: a review of literature from 2000 to 2012

Br Med Bull. 2013:106:19-43. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldt016. Epub 2013 May 19.


Background: Socioeconomic transformation in China at the beginning of the twenty-first century has led to rapid urbanization and accelerated rural-urban migration. As a result, the concerns about public health problems triggered by increasing internal population mobility have been more widely studied in recent years.

Sources of data: Published data in Chinese and English on health of migrants and their families in mainland China from 2000 to 2012.

Areas of agreement: The shifting patterns of disease distribution due to rural-urban migration, health equity and health reform strategies that cater for this specific yet substantial subpopulation are outstanding concerns. Infectious diseases, mental health, occupational health and women's health are emerging public health priorities related to migration.

Areas of controversy: The high mobility and large numbers of Chinese rural-urban migrants pose challenges to research methods and the reliability of evidence gained.

Growing points: While the theme of working migrants is common in the literature, there have also been some studies of health of those left behind but who often remain unregistered. Migration within China is not a single entity and understanding the dynamics of new and emerging societies will need further study.

Areas timely for developing research: Social, economic, emotional, environmental and behavioural risk factors that impact on health of migrants and their families call for more attention from health policy-makers and researchers in contemporary China.

Keywords: China; health equity; public health; rural–urban migration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • China / epidemiology
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology
  • Health Care Reform / methods
  • Health Care Reform / trends
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Public Health
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data*