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  • Periodic Report Summary 1 - HEATH CARE IN CHINA (Between State and Community−Public Health Campaigns and Local Healing Practice in socialist Asia 1950- 1980: Mao’s China, a case study)

Heath Care in China Report Summary

Project ID: 631344
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 1 - HEATH CARE IN CHINA (Between State and Community−Public Health Campaigns and Local Healing Practice in socialist Asia 1950- 1980: Mao’s China, a case study)

This project investigates the local and global impact of the PRC (China)’s healthcare policies and campaigns. It examines two case histories of healthcare initiatives that have become a major part of global discourse about international health aid and development: the Anti-Schistosomiasis Campaign that began in 1950s and the Barefoot Doctors Campaign that lasted from 1968 to 1983. The aim of this project is to understand the processes through which better standards of healthcare were conceived and the different contexts in which they have and can be evaluated for the purposes of developing a more nuanced understanding of Chinese approaches to health.

Until recently, lack of access to primary material other than policy formulations or party propaganda meant existing works on the PRC’s healthcare system could do no more than provide a general survey of the field, being unable to offer any concrete evidence or critical insights regarding how healthcare was actually experienced by the population at large. Social scientists have focused rather narrowly on state initiatives alone, and we therefore know very little about how these grand schemes were actually carried out on the ground.

During the first two-year, the project has collected hundreds of files from party archives in eight different provinces across China as well as nearly one hundred oral testimonies from experts, local cadres and villagers from those provinces. Based on these new research data, the next steps of the project will illustrate the huge diversity of everyday interactions and the diverse aspects of support, accommodation, and resistance. It moves away from one-dimensional accounts which focus exclusively on the top leadership or more narrowly on a single village. By analysing local implementations and personal testimonies against statistical analysis and political rhetoric, this project promises to add nuance to our understanding of the many complexities involved in the implementation of large-scale public health initiatives.

Up to now, social scientists and anthropologists have been key contributors for discussions on health system and global health. Despite some excellent historical research into the tug of war between social medicine and the eradication of specific diseases and their vectors at the level of the WHO and its precursor/s, there are no comparative studies of the contexts of late twentieth-century public health campaigns in socialist countries. This project is the first systematic historical analysis of how these public health initiatives were implemented and received at the local level throughout the PRC that also addresses their impact on global health. It will contribute to the current global health policy debates concerning the importance of political commitment to health, sustained investment, access to health, the pursuit of community engagement, and action on the wider determinants of health.

Reported by

United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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