Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Directive On Public Health

June 26, 1965

[SOURCE: Long Live Mao Tse-tung Thought, a Red Guard Publication.]

Tell the Ministry of Public Health that it only works for fifteen per cent of the total population of the country and that this fifteen per cent is mainly composed of gentlemen,[1] while the broad masses of the peasants do not get any medical treatment. First they don’t have any doctors; second they don’t have any medicine. The Ministry of Public Health is not a Ministry of Public Health for the people, so why not change its name to the Ministry of Urban Health, the Ministry of Gentlemen’s Health, or even to Ministry of Urban Gentlemen’s Health?

Medical education should be reformed. There’s no need to read so many books. How many years did Hua T’o[2] spend at college? How many years’ education did Li Shih-chen of the Ming dynasty receive? In medical education there is no need to accept only higher middle school graduates or lower middle school graduates. It will be enough to give three years to graduates from higher primary schools. They would then study and raise their standards mainly through practice. If this kind of doctor is sent down to the countryside, even if they haven’t much talent, they would be better than quacks and witch doctors and the villages would be better able to afford to keep them. The more books one reads the more stupid one gets. The methods of medical examination and treatment used by hospitals nowadays are not at all appropriate for the countryside, and the way doctors are trained is only for the benefit of the cities. And yet in China over 500 million of our population are peasants.

They work divorced from the masses, using a great deal of manpower and materials in the study of rare, profound and difficult diseases at the so-called pinnacle of science, yet they either ignore or make little effort to study how to prevent and improve the treatment of commonly seen, frequently occurring and widespread diseases. I am not saying that we should ignore the advanced problems, but only a small quantity of manpower and material should be expended on them, while a great deal of manpower and material should be spent on the problems to which the masses most need solutions.

There is another peculiar thing. Whenever a doctor makes an examination, he always has to wear a mask no matter what the illness is. Is this because they are afraid they might catch a disease and thus transmit it to others? I am afraid that it is primarily because they are afraid of catching an illness themselves. Different diseases should be dealt with separately. If they wear masks no matter what the illness, this creates a distance between doctor and patient from the start.

We should leave behind in the city a few of the less able doctors who graduated one or two years ago, and the others should all go into the countryside. The ‘four clean-ups’ movement was wound up in the year xx and has been basically completed,[3] but even though the ‘four clean-ups’ has been completed, medical and health work in the villages has not yet been completed!

In medical and health work put the emphasis on the countryside!



[1.] Here, and later in this paragraph, the term translated as ‘gentlemen’ is lao-yeh, which also means an official, in particular a district magistrate. Mao is using it ironically of the ‘new class’ of Party cadres, etc.

[2.] Hua T’o (d. A.D. 220), a celebrated physician and surgeon who served as court physician to Ts’ao Ts’ao; the latter had him executed when he proposed to open his skull to cure him of headaches.

[3.] On the ‘four clean-ups’, see note 5 on p. 9 of this volume.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung