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Reconsidering the Barefoot Doctor Programme

Abstract

This paper examines the widely acclaimed Barefoot Doctor campaign in China. The Barefoot Doctor campaign has come to symbolise the success of Chinese health care to the extent that it has become a model for WHO public health strategy. Yet little has been done to understand how or whether it worked on the ground and what difficulties and contradictions emerged in its implementation. Using previously unexplored party archives as well as newly collected oral interviews, this paper moves away from a narrow focus on party politics and policy formulation by examining the reality of health care at the local level and the challenges faced by local authorities and individuals as the campaigns evolved.

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Notes

  1. “Investigation in Changgangxiang” in Collection of Mao Zedong’s Writing, vol. 1; also see http://e-chaupak.net/database/webmao/html/mx01276.htm (assessed on 4 August 2015).

  2. For English translation see Zhou (2012), 52.

  3. For an English translation of this document see Zhou (2012), 111.

  4. For an English translation of this document see Zhou (2012), 111.

  5. The idea of “bring dead back to life” could be find in Daoist text《女仙传 太玄女》as cited in《太平广记》. The immoral goddess was said to have learnt 36 magic which could bring dead back life.

  6. “Comrade Qian Xinzhong’s Speech regarding Chairman’s Instruction at the National Rural Medical Education Conference on August 4, 1965”, from Conference Documents from 1965 National Rural Education Conference, unpublished material.

  7. “I was Forced to Become a Barefoot Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  8. “I treated Peng Dehuai with Chinese Herbal Medicine” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  9. “I am the father for forty kids” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  10. “I am honoured to have been a Barefoot Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  11. “The Female Barefoot Doctor from the Shore of Dian Lake” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  12. “A Barefoot Doctor and a Witch Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  13. “Why do I think the Barefoot Doctor was Different from the Ordinary Peasant” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  14. Interviews with Doctor Xu, Fuyang County in Zhejiang Province, 28 April 2015.

  15. “A Turning Point in my Life”, in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  16. “A Barefoot Doctor and a Witch Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  17. “A Barefoot Doctor and a Witch Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  18. “I Never Regretted for Being a Barefoot Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  19. “Let’s Talk about Barefoot Doctors” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  20. “Beijing a Barefoot Doctor Made My Dream Coming True” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  21. “It made me Feeling Satisfied when I could Heal Villagers” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  22. “Being Ordinary moves me” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  23. “I Never Regretted for Being a Barefoot Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  24. “It made me Happy to see My Patients Healthy” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  25. “I Never Regretted for Being a Barefoot Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  26. “We are Barefoot Doctors at the Hainan Frontier” in Barefoot Doctors Testimonies. Vol. 3, 89.

  27. “Learn the Theory of Proletarian Dictatorship and forever being the Carer of Poor Peasants” in Barefoot Doctors Testimonies, Vol. 3, 44.

  28. “Let’s Talk about Barefoot Doctors” in Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  29. “It made me Happy to see My Patients Healthy” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  30. “The Barefoot Doctor who Treated Sick Villagers with Local Methods” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  31. “It made me Happy to see My Patients Healthy” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  32. “Let’s Talk about Barefoot Doctors” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  33. “Swallow from the Tianjia Mountain” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  34. “I Never Regretted for Being a Barefoot Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  35. “How Village Doctors view the Cooperative Medical Service” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  36. “The Female Barefoot Doctor from the Shore of Dian Lake in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  37. “Beijing a Barefoot Doctor Made My Dream Coming True” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  38. “Story of an Elderly Trainee Doctor” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  39. Zhou “From China’s Barefoot Doctor programme to Alma Ata”, conference paper delivered at IHOs: The History for the Future Network international Conference, April 2015.

  40. Zhou “From China’s Barefoot Doctor programme to Alma Ata”, conference paper delivered at IHOs: The History for the Future Network international Conference, April 2015.

  41. “The Female Barefoot Doctor from the Shore of Dian Lake” in From Barefoot Doctors to Village Doctors.

  42. Interviews with villager X (anonymous) at Fuyang County in Zhejiang Province, 28 April 2015.

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Acknowledgments

This paper is part of a larger research project “Between State and Community—Public Health Campaigns and Local Healing Practices in socialist Asia 1950–1980: Mao’s China, a case study”. I have received the Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (CIG) from the European Commission Research Executive Agency for this project. I wrote this paper during my time as a visiting scholar at International Centre for Studies of Chinese Civilization (ICSCC), Fudan University. I am grateful to ICSCC for providing me the environment to complete this paper. ICSCC also sponsored my research trip to Fuyang County in Zhejiang Province for which I am grateful. In addition, ICSCC provided generous support for the International Workshop “Old and New Paradigms of Public Health: Historical Perspectives and Global Challenges” (May 2015). This paper has benefited greatly from the conversations generated from the workshop. I am also grateful to the History Department at the University of Essex for providing me with the intellectual environment and essential support needed in order to carry out my research.

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Zhou, X. Reconsidering the Barefoot Doctor Programme. Fudan J. Hum. Soc. Sci. 9, 41–63 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40647-015-0107-6

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Keywords

  • Health care delivery
  • Primary care
  • Barefoot Doctor
  • Rural health in China
  • Local practices