The China Forum on Public Health, Environment, and Public Policy

April 22, 2015

Tongzhang ZhengTongzhang ZhengIn a rapidly changing world, it is increasingly clear that public health research and policy require a global outlook. To address this need, on April 21, the Brown University School of Public Health, the Watson Institute's China Initiative, and the Institute at Brown for Environment & Society held The China Forum on Public Health, Environment, and Public Policy. The forum marked the beginning of an exciting new partnership between Brown faculty and public health officials and scientists from China. The delegation traveled to Providence to discuss current public health challenges and policies in China, the US, and around the world. Tongzhang Zheng, professor of epidemiology, convened the forum and has worked with many of the attendees in the past. With an ambitious and global scope, there was a breadth of topics covered by the Chinese researchers and Brown faculty, such as pollution, climate change, occupational health concerns, communicable disease, cancer, and prenatal and infant health. 

In his opening remarks for the event, David Savitz, vice president for research at Brown University and professor of epidemiology, noted the "distinctive flavors of research" and "cutting edge scientific work" that characterize the presenters' scholarship. He also praised the topics covered for their multidisciplinary approaches, a crucial element to the collaboration. Perhaps most importantly, in the field of public health "we are engaged with the real world," he said, expressing a desire to carry out "research that really matters in practice."

Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, praised what she called the presenters' "timely and fascinating research" in light of the rapid economic development in China, changes that have heavily impacted the environment and public health. She also explained how events such as The China Forum are "how Brown connects to the world." The China Forum, she said, embodies the idea of "250+", a motto that signifies the University's dedication to building on its 250-year history with integrative scholarship that creates "deep meaningful research connections" to explore issues relevant all around the world.

Richard Locke, director of the Watson Institute, explained how public health and the environment are intimately related to international affairs, tracing connections between social and economic development, security, and health. Amanda Lynch, director of the Institute at Brown for Environment & Society, gave closing remarks for the day-long forum, echoing the importance of collaboration in solving the world's societal and environmental issues.

The key word on everyone's lips throughout the day was collaboration. Speakers reinforced that there is much work to do in the field of global public health, particularly in countries with developing economies such as China. The best approach, it was agreed, is to work together. In this vein, The China Forum not only gave researchers the chance to see each other's work and provide feedback in person, it also set the stage for interested students and faculty to develop new collaborations for further research, education, and training activities. Through this, The China Forum could play a role in setting global public health research and policy agendas.

- Matthew Gannon