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Healthcare in China during the Cultural Revolution

By Tori Shepard


The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) wholly transformed the Chinese healthcare system. Accusing hospitals and medical schools of favoring the urban elite, putting too much emphasis on education, research and specialization, and too little emphasis on treating the common ailments of the people, Mao Zedong (1893-1976) enacted a period of significant change and disruption in medical treatment. Among his directives were purging the leadership of the Ministry of Public Health, shortening medical school curriculums, implementing traditional medicine practice, replacing doctors' authority with party member oversight, and famously sending barefoot doctors, as well as urban doctors, to serve in remote, rural areas. This paper will examine these momentous changes to the urban and rural medical spheres via the experiences of a Shanghainese doctor between 1966 and 1969, proposing that while rural areas may have benefited from Communist Party reforms, political interference punished and stagnated urban hospitals

Year: 2013
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