health insurance

Fighting the health effects of air pollution: The benefits of antioxidants and omega-3s

Fighting the health effects of air pollution: The benefits of antioxidants and omega-3s

Take a deep breath: 1.6 million people die in China every year from breathing toxic air pollution. Over 300 cities in the nation suffer from worrying levels of harmful air pollutants, especially in the northern region. E.g. in December 2016, the capital of northern Hebei province, Shijiazhuang, recorded 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre of PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter small enough to travel deep into the lungs). This far exceeds the WHO guideline of no more than 10 micrograms – by 100 times!

As touched upon in our recent article on reducing the health risks of air pollution, wearing a protective mask, decreasing your time spent outdoors and using an air purifier can help provide protection from smog. What’s more, proactive diners are also fighting the harmful health effects of smog by changing what they eat. This week’s article explains everything you need to know about the link between healthier eating and the effects of air pollution.

The negative health effects of air pollution

Before we look at how healthy eating can help combat smog, let’s first address the negative health effects of air pollution. Exposure to toxic levels of PM2.5 increases the risk of numerous short and long term harmful health effects.

Groups that are more vulnerable to these harmful health risks include the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and people suffering from conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

Short term health effects

According to National Geographic, the temporary health effects from exposure to air pollution include:

  • Pneumonia, a lung infection which causes lung inflammation
  • Bronchitis, an inflammation of the bronchial tube lining
  • Wheezing
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Irritation to the nose, throat, eyes, or skin

Long term health effects

Long term effects from exposure to air pollution are more serious, and can last for several years up to an entire lifetime. They can even lead to mortality. These effects include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Respiratory disease (e.g. emphysema)
  • Nerve, brain, kidney, and liver damage
  • Some scientists believe it may also cause birth defects

To avoid these harmful health risks, it’s therefore important to adopt protection strategies to minimize the effects of smog.

How healthier eating can address the effects of air pollution

As the Chinese urban population continues to grow, this has in effect created a shift from the traditional preference for fresh food and wet markets to prepackaged foods and supermarkets. Major international retail giants like ParkNshop and Carrefour, as well as Chinese retail chains and convenient stores continue to thrive as a strong platform targeting the younger generation with ready-to-eat meals and processed foods. As a result, there’s a worrying trend towards a growing number of people adopting diets characterized by low nutrient profiles (e.g. lacking in antioxidants).

The importance of antioxidants and omega-3s

Eastern and Western practitioners, as well as nutritionists and naturopaths all agree that the type of food we eat have a profound impact on our immune systems. So, why not fortify your diet with the right nutrients? By doing so, we’re helping our bodies remain as healthy as possible so that it’s less vulnerable to contracting diseases.

What are antioxidants?

According to WebMD, antioxidants can help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. A person may be exposed to free radicals through air pollutants. As such, adopting a diet rich in antioxidants can be a great way to stabilize these free radicals. For example, regular consumption of fruits and vegetables with carotenoids (e.g. carrots), which is an orange antioxidant pigment, has shown to be effective in reducing the risk of developing lung cancer. Other high antioxidant foods include goji berries, blueberries and kidney beans.

What are omega-3s?

Omega-3 fatty acids are the type of fat you don’t want to cut back on. Typically found in fish, seeds and nuts, omega-3s deliver a range of excellent health benefits. For instance, some studies even found that it can help lower levels of depression. Several studies also suggest that foods high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can help provide protection against inflammation. As a common health effect of air pollution is lung inflammation, consuming omega-3 rich foods such as mackerels, salmon, flaxseed and walnuts may have a beneficial effect on controlling various lung conditions (e.g. asthma).

Does it really work?

The answer to this question will of course depend on your expectations. The idea of healthier eating is that it will help you improve your health and boost your immune system in the long term, so eating a nutrient rich salad for lunch won’t mean that you’ll be breathing easier come bedtime.

As it can be hard to properly measure the benefits of healthier eating, adopting this approach may seem negligible to some, but you could do worse than giving it a try. Of course, besides eating nutrient rich foods, methods such as staying away from heavily trafficked roads and wearing a protective mask are still very important in offsetting the harmful health risks of air pollution.

Final advice: Don’t forget health insurance

While it’s of course important to have a healthy diet, it’s also essential to obtain health insurance should you require medical treatment for air pollution related illnesses or another condition. By securing health insurance, you’ll be able to offset the high cost of private treatment in China or elsewhere.

As virtually every health insurance plan out there is different, it can be tricky to shop around for the best value medical insurance plan that addresses your specific healthcare needs. This is why it can pay to get in touch with an experienced broker like Pacific Prime China.

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance
China bird flu cases are surging, in deadliest outbreak since 2009

China bird flu cases are surging, in deadliest outbreak since 2009

Recent news headlines have reported a surge in the China bird flu death toll, where in the months of January and February a total of 140 people died from the deadly H7N9 strain of the bird flu virus. The amount of deaths in the first two months of 2017 alone has already surpassed the annual totals of avian flu reported in recent years. In 2010, the H1N1 subtype led to a death toll of 147.

The alarming spike of avian flu recorded in 2017 has thus placed the H7N9 strain of bird flu at the top of the list of pandemic threats from among a dozen avian and animal flu viruses, which has afflicted several hundred people in China for the past few flu seasons, since the first human case was reported in 2013.

Where did bird flu H7N9 originate from?

First discovered in China back in 2013, the H7N9 strain of bird flu was relatively rare, with about 100 to 300 reported cases each year. However, this flu season has seen a whopping 460 confirmed cases of H7N9, mostly in eastern China. This is quite alarming, considering that the average cases of H7N9 between 2013 to 2016 is around 200.

Avian flu has been around for a long time, and first originated in aquatic birds (e.g. ducks), who occasionally make their way into domestic poultry flocks (e.g. chicken). The virus can then trigger sporadic human infections, usually among people who work within close vicinity of infected poultry, e.g. in wet markets.

In December last year, Hinchliffe and three co-authors published a book titled: Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics, which argued that a number of factors, including selective breeding and the surge in poultry populations, have facilitated the evolution of bird flu. For instance, the use of antibiotics in making birds grow faster has meant that disease tolerance is often compromised.

Most bird flu viruses are not lethal to poultry, as they are what scientists term a “low path virus”, which usually causes no disease or only very mild illness in poultry, e.g. a drop in egg production. H7N9 bird flu was originally, up until recently, a low path virus. However, the virus can evolve and become highly pathogenic if they are allowed to circulate for too long, especially in live poultry markets where birds are crowded into small cages, sometimes for several days. This allowed the virus to mutate and spread to humans.

What’s so alarming about the H7N9 strain of bird flu?

460 cases of H7N9 cases may not sound like a big deal to a lot of people, but here’s a few reasons why you shouldn’t be so sanguine about it:

  1. The H7N9 strain has an alarmingly high fatality rate. 41% of people who get it, die.
  2. In 2017 an evolved form of the H7N9 strain has popped up. As it’s new, the current vaccines don’t work as well against it.
  3. In cases where H7N9 evolves into a high path virus, it can cause illnesses that spread a lot more easily inside the body, thus resulting in more damage and a much higher chance of mortality.

What are the odds that the virus will spread between humans?

Virtually all cases of H7N9 cases have been confined to mainland China, mainly in the provinces of Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Jiangsu. People mainly catch the virus from exposure to infected poultry.

The odds of human-to-human H7N9 bird flu transmission are very low, although this can potentially happen to caregivers or immediate family members with weak immune systems. Further mutations in the virus could also mean that the virus may become more easily transmittable between humans in the future.

What are the symptoms of H7N9 bird flu?

The H7N9 virus causes major respiratory symptoms (e.g. severe pneumonia) that can be life threatening.

During the early stages of an H7N9 infection, people will usually experience the following symptoms, which are much akin to what one experiences with the common flu:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain

In later stages, H7N9 infection causes the following:

  • Pneumonia in both lungs
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Multi-organ dysfunction
  • Septic shock (a medical emergency caused by blood infection)
  • Muscle breakdown

What can I do to avoid catching bird flu?

Since H7N9 and other forms of bird flu are mainly transmitted through exposure to infected live poultry, it’s best advised to avoid going to live bird markets or backyard farms, especially in China. Experts say it’s also important to ensure that all poultry products that you’re eating are fully cooked.

Is there a vaccine available to protect yourself against H7N9?

As of the writing of this article, there’s no vaccine publically available to protect against H7N9, although a number pharmaceutical companies have been working on developing vaccines that are currently being tested in animal and human trials. There are however a few vaccines available for preventing the H5N1 subtype of avian flu, which had its first reported outbreak in humans back in 1997.

Are the illnesses caused by H7N9 bird flu treatable?

Antiviral drugs that are used against common flu viruses are also used to treat people infected with H7N9. These include: Oseltamivir (which is sold as Tamiflu), and Zanamivir (sold as Relenza). The most important thing to note here is that these drugs are the most effective when they are administered at the earliest opportunity possible. Another thing to note is that as H7N9 evolves, it may become highly resistant to these drugs.

Final advice

It’s important to consider securing a comprehensive health insurance plan so that, should you require medical care, be it bird flu related or another medical condition, your costs are covered and you are able to access healthcare at the best private facilities in China and internationally. To learn more and get a free quote, contact the insurance experts at Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance, News
China retirement readiness falling: How to stay on track

China retirement readiness falling: How to stay on track

Retirement is something that needs to be on the minds of every adult, not just those who are nearing their golden years. In fact, planning ahead for three decades or greater is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to ensuring that your financial future is healthy and bright. However, for those in the Middle Kingdom, there has been bad news recently regarding China retirement readiness. Here, Pacific Prime China examines the news and its implications for future China retirees, as well as the areas you should focus on when considering your own personal retirement plans.

China retirement readiness falling

Tsinghua University has released an updated index on retirement readiness that shows China’s rating falling from 6.51 out of 10 in 2015 to 6.0 in 2016. Similarly, in 2015 20% of people reported that they felt they were well prepared for retirement, which dropped to 15.3% of people in 2016. This index takes many factors into account in order to come up with this number, including people’s retirement plans, preparations and expectations. Additional factors include current retirement savings, knowledge of financial issues and financial planning, and awareness of retirement responsibilities.

So what is the reason that China retirement readiness is taking a step backward? There are many factors contributing to this trend, but perhaps the biggest and most obvious general reason is that the Chinese economy and stock market have not been doing so well as of late. Cultural feelings about personal responsibility also seem to be a factor, as only 9% of Chinese citizens feel that retirement financing should fall solely on them. Neighboring territories in Asia, including South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, see this number come to 40% of their respective citizenries. Meanwhile, 63% of citizens believe that the onus of China retirement readiness should fall to the government. This number also sits at 40% in the other territories mentioned.

These feelings may be mirroring the current state of retirement savings in China, where the major vehicles for saving is a government run pension plan. However, there are also voluntary savings plans participated in by both employees and employers, as well as private savings plans and commercial retirement savings plans. The latter products are of negligible popularity in China at the moment, but the Chinese government is promoting such commercial savings vehicles to try to offset providing for an aging population.

Savings and investment

So how should one go about organizing their retirement savings? One of the best ways for people who already have a significant amount of savings is to invest their money. Utilizing capital to create capital is a great way to build up a nest egg and ensure that you can maintain a certain quality of living well into your golden years. Once you have your investments set, and factor in other sources of income like government subsidies for the elderly that you will be eligible, you can create a retirement budget and see if you will have enough money to achieve your desired lifestyle and China retirement readiness goals. Of course, you are going to want to have extra savings available each year so that you can address unexpected costs that arise.

Health insurance

Any retirement planning should start not only with an overview of your financial health, but also your physical health. After all, planning for the future is not strictly about dollars and cents, but also being healthy enough to enjoy your hard earned nest egg. For this reason, factoring in the cost of your future healthcare is important. Of course, one of the best ways to addressing these costs is to make sure that you have a comprehensive health insurance plan in place to avoid the costs that can come along with the major ailments that tend to occur more commonly later in life, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, etc.

When you are planning your medical insurance there are some common exclusions that come up time and again that you should be aware of. Namely, these are maximum age limits and pre-existing conditions.

Maximum age limits

Many insurers impose maximum age limits on their policies. This is because as people age, insurance underwriters have to consider if the medical costs of the average individual or a certain age will be greater than the premiums that the individual would pay the insurer. An insurance company cannot operate running on a loss, so they institute maximum age limits to avoid insuring the people that are most at risk of costly medical conditions. Generally this limit tops out at 70 years of age, although some plans go as high as 80. Still yet, there are plans available out there with no maximum age limit on them. As with health insurance at any age, though, the riskier a person is to insure, the higher their premiums are likely to be, so people of advanced age will likely have to pay a hefty cost to remain insured. This can make planning ahead for inflating insurance costs somewhat daunting.

Pre-existing conditions

Another risk factor that insurers are always on the look-out for is pre-existing conditions. This is simply when you have an ongoing medical condition that was present before you obtained your current health insurance policy. In most cases, where not prohibited by law, a private health insurance plan will exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. This means that, while an insurance policy will provide benefits for many illnesses, the specific pre-existing conditions will not be eligible to be covered. Sometimes pre-existing conditions can be covered after the ailment in question has not occurred for a particular period of time – usually a number of years.

To ensure that you never get stuck with having excluded pre-existing conditions, you can simply obtain a policy with a particular insurer, and maintain continuous coverage for as long as possible. However, this can limit your choice of insurance provider. If you develop a condition while on an insurance plan, you will be disincentivized from switching providers, because a new insurer is likely to count the condition as pre-existing.

Life insurance

While it won’t necessarily help you enjoy your retirement, when it comes to planning for the end of your life, life insurance is a must to make sure that your family is well taken care of after your passing.

Other similar insurances to ask your insurance agent about that can help in dire circumstances include critical illness insurance, personal accident insurance, permanent disability insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance.

While we will leave the savings and investment to the financial advisers of the world, Pacific Prime China can certainly help those that need assistance in obtaining comprehensive insurance to address medical concerns, as well as avoid burdening their families with financial hardship following a hospitalization or death. Contact us today to be put in touch with a knowledgeable insurance advisor that can answer any questions you may have about China retirement readiness, and provide you with free insurance plan comparisons and price quotes. As a broker we compare prices from a number of the world’s best insurers; saving you the trouble of tracking down multiple quotes from multiple sources.

Posted by Travis Jones in General Insurance, News
Maternity Insurance in China: Can you buy when you’re already pregnant?

Maternity Insurance in China: Can you buy when you’re already pregnant?

Mothers-to-be have so much to think about and plan for with regards to the arrival of their new bundle of joy. Baby showers, room decorations, picking the right colors for everything depending on if it will be a boy or a girl. These are the types of fun things that people prefer to focus on when imagining their new family unit. What we don’t like to think about are the unpleasant thoughts of what could go wrong during pregnancy, labor and delivery. This is a sad fact, as planning ahead is imperative if you want to make sure that your new baby is completely covered by medical insurance no matter what happens. Here, Pacific Prime China examines how you can make sure your newborn is covered by maternity insurance in China.

What is Maternity Insurance and what does it cover?

Maternity Insurance in China is a separate type of coverage from what normally comes with health insurance coverage. This is because it is specially designed to address the costs associated with the development and birth of a new baby. Since a certain amount of cost is all but guaranteed should a woman become pregnant, as opposed to normal health insurance, in which some people may not get sick while insured, these plans can be a bit pricey and come with restrictions, perhaps the biggest of which are waiting periods, which we will address below.

As far as specific benefits provided by Maternity Insurance, after conception it includes benefits for pre-natal care, which can include medical consultations, regular checkups, ultrasounds, blood and urine tests, birth defect screenings and more. Then, once your bun has been in the oven long enough, Maternity Insurance will pay for the costs of labor and delivery, as well as costs related to the treatment of any complications at birth for both mother and child. It should be noted here that Maternity Insurance provides benefits regardless of your baby being born naturally or via caesarian section.

Beyond these items which are normally covered by Maternity Insurance, plans can also provide benefits for fertility treatment (including In-Vitro Fertility treatment), and costs related to treatment of congenital birth defects.

Why obtain Maternity Insurance in China?

Generally speaking, what level of insurance coverage would parents want when it comes to the birth of their new child? The best, of course! However, without Maternity Insurance, your options for affordable labor and delivery can be limited. This is because the best healthcare provided in China is found in private hospitals, which are a great deal more expensive than what you can expect to pay at public facilities. In fact, you can pay as much as RMB 100,000 for a maternity delivery package in a Chinese public hospital in a city like Shanghai.

Beyond just the price and level of care, there are other considerations that expatriates living in China should account for. One of the largest among these is the potential language barrier. If you are not fluent in Mandarin, then you may have trouble communicating with staff at public hospitals in China, which could be a source of great tension and worry if things seem to go the slightest bit wrong. At private hospitals in China, there are internationally trained doctors and finding one that speaks your language should not be too much trouble. This is all the more reason to ensure that you are free to attend a private hospital.

Waiting periods

A waiting period is a specific amount of time that must pass following the start of an insurance policy before a claim can be made against it. While most of the time waiting periods are not a hugely significant amount of time, when it comes to Maternity Insurance in China, they can be quite lengthy, and make all the difference in the world as to whether your pregnancy, labor and delivery will be covered or not. This is because many insurance companies will make their members possess maternity insurance for 12 months before it can be claimed against.

Now, you may be doing the math and saying, “Wait a minute. That means that if I get Maternity Insurance just before I get pregnant, I won’t have any coverage for my pregnancy.” That’s right. Not only is it far too late to have the lab tests, doctors visits, labor and delivery covered after a child has already been conceived, even if you won’t be pregnant for a month Maternity Insurance is almost certainly likely to not pay out. While there are plans available with waiting periods of only 10 months, this is likely the shortest you will find on the market. And even with a 10 month waiting period, you would want to avoid getting pregnant one month after obtaining such a plan because pre-mature births do happen, and you could miss out on covering birthing costs if the baby comes early.

What to do if it’s too late for maternity coverage

In the event that you are pregnant and do not have a Maternity Insurance plan in place, your options are certainly more limited, but there are still steps you can take to protect your baby as much as possible. Specifically, obtaining a newborn health insurance policy would be an excellent idea.  While this type of insurance does not address costs associated specifically with pregnancy, labor, delivery, or complications that occur prior to birth, after your baby arrives it can be invaluable. This is because, even after getting through the entire birthing process, a newborn is still quite vulnerable to a whole host of diseases that can be acquired almost immediately once he or she is out in the open.

The moral of the story: Plan ahead!

Obviously, if you want to get Maternity Insurance in China, you are going to need to overcome the waiting periods attached to most plans. That means that you need to have a plan in place well ahead of when you plan to conceive in order to be covered through the duration of your pregnancy – up to a year in advance of conception! For this reason, communicate openly with your partner about the timing of your next baby, and get your Maternity Insurance plan now and not when it’s too late.

If you have any questions about the information presented above, or when to secure maternity insurance before it is too late, contact the knowledgeable insurance experts at Pacific Prime China. Our agents are standing by to not only provide you with comparisons of insurance plans offered by China’s best insurers, but also give you a free price quote.

Posted by Travis Jones in Health Insurance, Maternity Insurance
Pacific Prime China is now on WeChat!

Pacific Prime China is now on WeChat!

Pacific Prime China is excited to announce the launch of our very own portal on popular Chinese messaging platform WeChat – a welcome new addition to our current repertoire of social media accounts already on Facebook, and LinkedIn. Joining an active user base of 846 million, the official Pacific Prime China WeChat account now offers a whole host of exciting new features exclusive to our followers. To avail these perks, simply follow us on WeChat (WeChat ID: PacificPrime) today!

Pacific Prime China meets Chinese market trends

In joining the ubiquitous WeChat platform, Pacific Prime China taps into a whole new audience of avid users – more than 90% of WeChat users go on the messaging app every day, and over 50% of users use WeChat more than 1 hour daily! By keeping up-to-date with the latest market trends in China, Pacific Prime China joins in with 560,000 other official company accounts on the most popular online community channel in China.

With a current active user base that is hiking its way up to the 1 billion user mark, WeChat has far surpassed Twitter’s 317 million users and is steadily catching up with Facebook’s 1.79 billion active users. Interestingly, corporate workers form the largest user group on WeChat, making up 40.4% of total users.

More than just a messaging platform

Pacific Prime China sees enormous potential in finding new ways of personalizing our services to existing and new clients on WeChat, especially when looking at the different ways that users are currently engaging with the platform. For example, not only are people communicating via chat, but they are also engaging on its social media platform “Moments” with friends and companies – a significant 61.4% of users go onto WeChat Moments when they open the app.

Another popular feature is WeChat Payment, which links WeChat with the user’s credit card. There are now 200 million users connected to WeChat Payments, and this highly availed feature has even seen over 8 billion “red envelopes” sent over WeChat during Chinese New Year in 2016!

Key features offered in new Pacific Prime China WeChat portal

Here are a key few of the many exciting new features that you can expect from the new Pacific Prime China WeChat portal:

  • Claims processing: Existing clients of Pacific Prime China can now access their policy details, easily process claims, and also change their policy information.
  • Assisting new clients: Our WeChat portal allows us to assist our new clients with regards to securing their new policies
  • Access to a dedicated service team: We now have a dedicated team servicing our WeChat account, helping you with any questions you may have.
  • Keeping you informed: Followers will be able to access exclusive blog articles so that they can stay up-to-date on the latest, most important market information relevant to the insurance industry, covering topics related to expat health insurance, general insurance, health trends, and many more.

Don’t forget to follow us!

To access the exciting new features now available on Pacific Prime China’s latest portal, be sure to follow us via our WeChat ID: PacificPrime, or by scanning the QR code below:

Pacific Prime China WeChat

 

Interested in learning more about our WeChat portal or the plans that we offer? Contact us today and our team of insurance advisors will be more than happy to have a chat.

Posted by Jess in General Insurance, News