THERE are 8 million Chinese over 80 years of age and, by some estimates, there will be 100 million Chinese octogenarians by the middle of this, the Asian century.
And although old age may bring brittle bones, there is a view that Australia's ties to China could benefit from a hip replacement. Half a million even.
That's how many operations Stephen Leeder, the director of Sydney's Menzies Centre for Health Policy, estimates will be needed in China each year by 2050 - offering Australia a unique chance to foster closer links with Beijing by helping China cope with the consequences of an ageing population.
Professor Leeder yesterday told former Treasury boss Ken Henry, who is drafting the federal government's forthcoming white paper Australia in the Asian Century, that Australia should spruik its medical expertise in the region, not only in aged care, but also, as China's economy grows, what he calls the ''unintended consequences'' of middle-class life, such as increased rates of diabetes and heart disease.
''We know how to fix hips, we know what to do in terms of preventative strategies,'' Professor Leeder said.
''We've got a chance while these populations are ageing to put in place preventative strategies against the unintended consequences of middle-class affluence that could save them a motza.''
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