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Higher Education Modules

Disseminating Health Knowledge: Public Health Campaigns in 20th-Century China

The top image shows people performing a dragon dance parade and the lower picture shows pharmaceutical products of ointments and medicine

Health poster and pharmaceutical advertsement: to build a strong socialist country fast, ca. 1958

Disseminating Health Knowledge: Public Health Campaigns in 20th-Century China explores how and why modern health knowledge was disseminated to the general population of China over the 20th century. It examines the means of transferring scientific knowledge of medicine and health from the professional elite to the masses, particularly via visual communications. Students are expected to explore the political and social implications of good health for individuals and the nation, and analyze the popularization of scientific medicine as a vital part of China’s modernization efforts.

There are six one-hour classes in this module. Class 1 covers how Western influence shaped the concept of scientific medicine and Class 2 examines the initial efforts of health education. Class 3 investigates the introduction of Western interpretation of the human body to Chinese school students via educational posters and the marketing of biomedicine. Class 4 explores the mass movement of public health in urban and rural settings, whereas Class 5 focuses on hygiene education in the classroom from 1930s to 1980s. Class 6 evaluates the common themes and patterns in public health education of China and compares the findings with those in the West. In the last class, students work in pairs for a class project by choosing an interested topic on health campaigns for writing a paper. Each pair of students must incorporate visual materials into their paper discussion and present their paper in later class.

Information about the module’s author, suggested use, and academic objectives is also available online at About the module.