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1975 Documentary - The Barefoot Doctors of Rural China

by | 14 December 2009 | 7 Comments | Last modified: 7 Feb 12:35 pm

Thanks to DD for forwarding this fascinating full-length documentary on barefoot doctors in China, shot primarily in 1975.

For an excellent history of the rise and demise of the barefoot doctors in China (and the Cooperative Medical System, of which the barefoot doctors were a part of), I highly recommend: Chen Meei Shia’s “The Great Reversal: Transformation of Health Care in the People’s Republic of China“, in Cockerham, William C [ed] (2004) The Blackwell companion to medical sociology. Blackwell.

Interestingly, Wang Shaoguang suggests in the latest Socialist Register that the ‘great reversal’ may be turning back on itself again:

In Mao’s era the health of the population was one of the country’s proudest boasts. But the market-oriented reforms of the 1980s and 1990s gradually shattered the country’s social safety nets, including its once famous healthcare system, making it difficult for many rural and urban residents to afford treatment. In reaction to this, a burgeoning protective counter-movement emerged in recent years. A growing number of people, including government decision-makers, have come to realize not only that relying primarily on the free market to finance and provide health care would inevitably lead to reduced access to health services for the poor and the vulnerable, but that since health is so important to everyone’s wellbeing, it should never be allowed to flounder at the mercy of the market. The Chinese government has now committed itself to restoring an affordable and equitable healthcare system.


7 comments on “1975 Documentary - The Barefoot Doctors of Rural China

  1. langyan on said:

    Wang also has an important earlier article on health matters in China translated by CSG on the site here. It was one of the most controversial articles in Dushu during the Wang Hui/Huang Ping era.

    People’s Health Matters Too


  2. husunzi on said:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I want to share it with friends and former students, but the video’s not showing up for me here in CHina. I guess it’s on Youtube? Could someone download it (for Youtube and most other video hosts you can use the DownloadHelper add-on to Firefox, and there are other ways for other browsers) and upload it to CSG?

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  5. Xiaoping Fang on said:

    Actually, there were three movies on barefoot doctors in the 1970s: 《春苗》,《红雨》,《雁鸣湖畔》.

    Last year, I just finished my Ph.D. dissertation on barefoot doctors in Chinese villages under socialism from 1968 to 1983. I am now revising the dissertation into a publishable manuscript. Is anyone here interested in the social history of medicine?

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  7. Marlynn May on said:

    To Xiaoping Fang:
    Have you published your dissertation on barefoot doctors in Chinese villages under socialism from 1968 to 1983? I am interested in reading it and would appreciate a reference I can access.
    Thank you.

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