Skip to main content

Public Health Education in India and China:History, Opportunities, and Challenges


Public health education in China and India has a long history that has been both deeply responsive to the unique needs and medical traditions of each country, and sensitive to global influences. The history of public health education in China reaches back several centuries, with substantial input from American and European organizations during the Republican Era, 1911–1949. In India, centuries-old health care traditions were influenced during the colonial period by the British Empire prior to independence in 1947. Political upheaval in both countries during the 1940s further impacted the public health systems as well as public health education.

The primary goal of this review is to outline public health education in India and Mainland China, with a focus on describing the historical systems and structures that have promoted the development of formalized public health education. We examine current challenges, and analyze opportunities for improvement. Health reforms in China and India need to consider new and modern models for public health education, perhaps in independent faculties of public health, to reinvigorate public health education and strengthen the position of public health in addressing the health challenges of the 21st century.


  1. 1.

    Veith I. The yellow emperor’s classic of internal medicine. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press; 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Wong KC, Wu L-t. History of Chinese medicine; being a chronicle of medical happenings in China from ancient times to the present period. 2nd ed. New York, NY: AMS Press; 1973.

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Benedict C. Policing the sick: plague and the origins of state medicine in late imperial China. Late Imperial China. 1993;14:63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Yip KC. Health and national reconstruction in nationalist China: The Development of Modern Health Services, 1928–1937. Ann Arbor, MI: The Association of Asian Studies; 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Bu L. Starting a public health education movement in China: “The Council on Health Education,” 1915–1926. Launching Chinese public health. Johns Hopkins University; 2008.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Fee E, Bu L. Models of public health education: choices for the future? Bull World Health Organ. 2007;85:977–9.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Bu L, Fee E. John B. Grant international statesman of public health. Am J Public Health. 2008;98:628–9.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Cohen MS, Henderson GE, Aiello P, Zheng H. Successful eradication of sexually transmitted diseases in the People’s Republic of China: implications for the 21st century. J Infect Dis. 1996;174:S223–9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Zhang D, Unschuld PU. China’s barefoot doctor: past, present, and future. Lancet. 2008;372:1865–7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Lampton DM. The politics of medicine in China: the policy process, 1949–1977. Boulder, CO: Westview Press; 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    World Bank World Development Report, Table 3.1 Global Health Expenditure; 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Hsiao W. The Chinese health care system: lessons for other nations. Soc Sci Med. 1995;41:1047.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Hesketh T, Zhu WX. Health care in China: maternal and child health in China. BMJ. 1997;314:1898–9.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Griffiths SM. Leading a healthy lifestyle: the challenges for China. Asia Pac J Public Health. 2010;22:110S.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Liu Y. China’s public health-care system: facing the challenges. Bull World Health Organ. 2004;82:532–8.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Wang H, Wang N, Bi A, Wang G, Ding G, Jia M, et al. Application of cumulative odds logistic model on risk factors analysis for sexually transmitted infections among female sex workers in Kaiyuan City, Yunnan Province, China. Sex Transm Infect. 2009;85:290–5.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Lin CC, Gao X, Chen XS, Chen Q, Cohen MS. China’s syphilis epidemic: a systematic review of seroprevalence studies. Sex Transm Dis. 2006;33:726–36.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Griffiths SM, Li LM, Tang JL, Ma X, Hu YH, Meng QY, et al. The challenges of public health education with a particular reference to China. Public Health. 2010;124:218–24.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Zhu MJ, Jin MJ, Chen K. Discussion of public health system and public health education. Zhejiang Prev Med. 2004;16:60e1.

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Wei B, Lu L, Zhang ZY, Ma ZY. Bridging the gap between education and practice in public health, with particular reference to less-developed provinces in China. Public Health. 2011;125:25–9.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Li LM. The Current State of Public Health in China. Annu Rev Public Health. 2004;25:327–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    CCDC. Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention brief introduction. Beijing; 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    APACPH. Asia Pacific Academic Consorium for Public Health. 2010. Available from URL: (Accessed 20 September, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Zhang D, Mou J, Cheng JQ, Griffiths SM. Public health service in Shenzhen: a case study. Public Health. 2011;125:15–9.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Li LM, Tang JL, Lu L, Jiang Y, Griffiths SM. The need for integration in health sciences sets the future direction for public health education. Public Health. 2011;125:20–4.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and State Council. Guidelines on deepening the reform of the healthcare system. Beijing: Central Chinese Government; 2009.

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Liang KY, Zeger SL. Regression analysis for correlated data. Annu Rev Public Health. 1993;14:43–68.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Datta KK. Public health workforce in India: career pathways for public health personnel. New Delhi; 2009.

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health. Available from URL: (Accessed 18 November, 2010).

  30. 30.

    NIHFW. Committee and Commission. Available from URL: (Accessed 18 November, 2010).

  31. 31.

    Thakur HP, DD Pandit, Subramanian P. History of preventive and social medicine in India. J Postgrad Med. 2001; 47(4): 283–5.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Health services and medical education: A programme for immediate action (Shrivastav Committee Report). 1975.

  33. 33.

    Poulose KP, Natarajan PK. Re-orientation of medical education in India: past, present and future. Indian J Public Health. 1989;33:55–8.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Sathe P, Sathe A. Epidemiology and Management For Health Care For All, 1st ed. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan Pvt. Ltd.; 1991.

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Expert review committee for health manpower planning, production and management (Bajaj Committee). 1986. Available from URL:]20Committeeai]20report.pdf (Accessed 18 November, 2010).

  36. 36.

    Expert Committee on Public Health Systems. 1996. Available from URL: Committee on PH System JS Bajaj 1996.pdf (Accessed 6 December, 2010).

  37. 37.

    Voluntary Health Association of India. Report of the Independent Commission on Health in India. New Delhi: VHAI; 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    (No author). Regional Conference on Public Health in South East Asia in the 21st Century, Calcutta, 22–24 November 1999: “Calcutta Declaration on Public Health”. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2000;54:749.

  39. 39.

    World Health Organization. Working together for health: The World Health Report. Geneva; WHO: 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Medical Council of India. Available from URL: (Accessed 18 November, 2010).

  41. 41.

    Garg BS. Accreditation of public health courses in India–the challenge ahead. Indian J Community Med. 2004;29:52.

    Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Zodpey SP, Negandhi H, Tiwari RR. Mapping ‘Occupational Health’ courses in India: a systematic review. Indian J Occup Environ Med. 2009;13:135–40.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Sharma K, Zodpey S. Need and opportunities for health management education in India. Indian J Public Health. 2010;54:84–91.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shrikant I. Bangdiwala PhD.

Additional information

Recommended Citation: Bangdiwala SI, Tucker JD, Zodpey SM, Griffiths S, Li L-M, Reddy KS, Cohen MS, Gross M, Sharma K, Tang J-L. Public Health Education in India and China: History, Opportunities, and Challenges. Public Health Reviews. 2011;33:204–24.

Rights and permissions

Open Access  This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

To view a copy of this licence, visit

The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bangdiwala, S.I., Tucker, J.D., Zodpey, S. et al. Public Health Education in India and China:History, Opportunities, and Challenges. Public Health Rev 33, 204–224 (2011).

Download citation


  • China
  • India
  • public health
  • education
  • capacity building
  • training