Public Health in China: A Multidisciplinary Workshop

The water tower and ma lu hankow wuhan in the 1920s

While Covid-19 has focused attention on public health in China, discussion on this subject can often be polarised, or can use China to contrast public health practices implemented elsewhere.  This workshop will focus on public health in China in its own right, providing a long-term and multidisciplinary approach to the topic.  It will examine the nature of Chinese public health in historical, political, and anthropological contexts, encouraging reflection on whether Chinese public health is a coherent concept or distinct practice.  Speakers will provide short presentations on current research, with time for general discussion and audience questions.  The workshop will be followed by an informal drinks reception.


Xianbing Du will discuss current research on cholera and sanitation measure in China during the early twentieth century, including the role of Traditional Chinese Medicine in responding to outbreaks.  Eben Kirksey and Binli Dai will talk about how good viruses were deliberately spread among people in China, long before they were isolated and characterized by the European medical scientists who get credited for developing the first vaccine.  Dong Guoqiang will outline the influence of western missionaries on Chinese medical education, hospital construction, and medical practice in the modern period, including the attitude of Nationalist and Communist authorities towards missionary medicine.  Finally, Mary Brazelton will share her experience of working with the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as reflections on the relationship between China and global health as a discipline. 



Dong Guoqiang, History Department, Fudan University and British Academy Visiting Fellow, AMES, University of Oxford

Mary Augusta Brazelton, Global Studies of Science, Technology, and Medicine, Cambridge University,

Xianbing Du, Institute of European Civilization, Tianjin Normal University

Eben Kirksey, Medical Anthropology, University of Oxford

Chairs: Henrietta Harrison and Jennifer Altehenger, University of Oxford


Medical Humanities Research Hub, TORCH Research Hubs