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Public health in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  1. Douglas James Noble
  1. Unicef China, Beijing, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Douglas James Noble; djnoble{at}

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The knowledge about public health in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DRPK) has improved in recent years. Given the scale of the challenges, national and international entities have sought to highlight data, gaps and inequities to inform progress. These have highlighted key areas for public health investment, such as the 18 million people who are dependent on a public distribution system of food rations and the more than 10 million who are undernourished.1

Public health improvements have been occurring. For example, coverage rates of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccination increased from 37% in 1997 to 96% in 2013.2 Yet, challenges persist across an array of indicators. Under five mortality remains notable at 15 per 1000 live births. And, although faecal contamination of source water is 23.5%, more than 20% of parents do not seek care for children with diarrhoea from public health facilities—55% of those who do seek care do not receive oral rehydration salts and zinc.3 Health infrastructure is extensive, but capacity is low and the system is under-resourced.4

There are many unknowns on the state of public health in DPRK. Park et al in BMJ …

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