In the history of medicine and health, the barefoot doctor scheme in China during the Cultural Revolution was a synonym for the provision of rural health care in the Maoist era. This talk examines how socio-political, disease, and economic factors contributed to the development of the barefoot doctor program and shaped the unique path of health provision in China over the past seven decades. It analyses how the government clarified and addressed the contradiction between ideological equity and structural inequity. It discusses how epidemiologic transition both facilitated and challenged the barefoot doctor program. The talk further investigates how the changing roles and function of barefoot doctors has impacted the evolution of community medicine since the late 1960s. It discusses how the barefoot doctors echoed the themes of social medicine in developing and developed countries and left its inspirations and legacies. By revisiting the state’s role in the barefoot doctor program, this research aims to contribute to a new understanding of the global history of medicine and health in the twentieth century and beyond when socio-politics, epidemiologic transition, and medical technology shaped social determinants of health and the relationship between medicine and politics in China.
This is a hybrid (in-person and online) seminar.
The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Centre on China in the World at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
Xiaoping Fang is an Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at Monash University. His research interests focus on the history of medicine, health, and epidemics in twentieth-century China and the socio-political history of Mao’s China after 1949. He is the author of China and the Cholera Pandemic: Restructuring Society under Mao (2021).