Nineteen provinces and municipalities have spent a total of 4.28 billion yuan ($659 million) to support health sector development in western Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region over the past year. The 19 selected regions, including Beijing and Guangdong, have supported 265 health projects in Xinjiang – from infrastructure building, medical equipment purchases to medical staff training, said China’s Health Minister Chen Zhu. These health projects are part of a national plan to support Xinjiang through “pairing assistance” from 19 provinces and municipalities, which was unveiled in March 2010. Chen added that the supporting provinces and municipalities have dispatched over 700 medical professionals and management staff to Xinjiang and organized health sector training for thousands. Medical support teams sent by the 19 provinces and municipalities have offered treatment for more than 200,000 people in Xinjiang, Chen said. According to Chen, the Ministry of Health and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine allocated a special investment of 2.8 billion yuan for the development of Xinjiang’s health sector in 2010, up 39 percent year-on-year. Chen urged for further support to Xinjiang’s health sector, especially in the reform of the medical system and training of medical professionals. At a national conference on “pairing assistance” for Xinjiang held in Beijing last month, the government pledged to promote further development in the west region while improving residents’ lives there was highest concern.