History of Medicine
Tuberculosis was one of the major epidemic diseases in 20th-century China, along with smallpox, malaria, cholera, schistosomiasis, and other epidemics. Organized efforts to fight the disease began in 1933 when the National Anti-Tuberculosis Association of China was established. From 1950 through 1980, the Chinese government launched anti-tuberculosis campaigns as part of the national public health movement. The Anti-TB Association and the Red Cross played important roles in the health education campaigns. Health posters became an important tool to disseminate health knowledge and methods of prevention and treatment. The campaigns, along with the universal free healthcare, led to a significant decline of tuberculosis. Rapid industrialization and urbanization since the 1990s, however, witnessed a resurgence of tuberculosis in China.The country now has the world's second largest number of tuberculosis cases, after India. Despite serious measures to improve tuberculosis control, the disease remains a major public health problem.
The National Library of Medicine holds a large collection of Chinese public health posters. This exhibit samples 62 anti-TB posters from 1950 to 1980 to showcase Chinese anti-TB educational campaigns. Some images resemble those in the US anti-TB campaigns before 1950, indicating the continuing use of health images from previous decades. The posters emphasized using BCG vaccines and eliminating public spitting as key preventive methods, along with attention to good nutrition, exercise, and a regular lifestyle to boost general health and build a strong immune system.