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Between State and Community−Public Health Campaigns and Local Healing Practice in socialist Asia 1950- 1980: Mao’s China, a case study


This project will survey two widely acclaimed campaigns in China under Mao Zedong: the Barefoot Doctor Campaign and the Anti-Schistosomiasis Campaign. The Barefoot Doctor Campaign has come to symbolize the success of Chinese health care to the extent that it has become a model for WHO public health strategy. Yet little has been done to understand how or whether it worked on the ground and what difficulties and contradictions emerged in its implementation. Likewise, there are no in-depth studies of the internationally acclaimed Anti-Schistosomiasis Campaign in Mao’s China. A comparison of the latter, a top-down initiative with a biomedical ‘magic bullet’ to deliver, with the former, a more general public health campaign focused on education, hygiene and the provision of basic health care, will bring out the complex interface between local everyday health strategies and state provision of both modern allopathic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Capitalizing on the recently opening of party archives as well as newly collected oral interviews, this project intends to move away from a narrow focus on party politics and policy formulation by examining the reality of health care at the local level and the challenges faced by local authorities and individuals as the campaigns evolved. It promises to break new ground in our knowledge of the conditions of health care from below. The overall aim of the project is to understand the processes through which better standards of health care were conceived and the different contexts in which they have and can be evaluated. It will not only help us to develop a more nuanced understanding of Chinese approaches to health, it will also contribute essential background to policy formation by generating practical resources for reviewing the more comprehensive issue of global health and provide further understanding for the global health policy debate concerning the use of primary healthcare to reduce global health care disparity.

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Wivenhoe Park
CO4 3SQ Colchester
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 100 000
Administrative Contact
Shereen Anderson (Ms.)