Prof Zhi-Jie Zheng: facing China's biggest health challenges

Professor Zhi-Jie Zheng is the Executive Director of The George Institute, China. He is also University Distinguished Professor and Dean, School of Public Health, Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

What motivated you to join The George?

The George Institute is a truly global organisation that draws on top medical researchers worldwide to drive changes in health systems and healthcare to improve peoples’ health, not only in China but globally. With so many young and promising researchers at The George Institute, China I am sure it will bring vitality and energy to China’s academic research work.

What are the biggest health challenges in China?

The burden of non-communicable diseases is soaring because of changes in lifestyle and demographics across China. Disease prevention and control systems in China, especially the primary care system, are relatively weak and a real priority because that is where we can help lessen this burden.

How is our research in China addressing these?

The goal of our research is to explore cost-effective, easy-to-implement, population-based health interventions that can be scaled up. With the support of innovative technology, we can improve the delivery and quality of healthcare in large scale and make it accessible to more people who really need it.

What are example flagship projects?

The China Center for mHealth Innovation (CCmHI), supported by Qualcomm Wireless Reach, is looking to improve health using sustainable mHealth interventions that target China’s leading causes of death and disability. Another example is Lifeseeds, The China Rural Health Initiative, which focuses on how to improve population health via strengthening the primary health system and reducing unhealthy lifestyle factors such as excessive salt intake. This is part of the China Center for Excellence - one of the 11 centres worldwide, initially supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a part of the US National Institutes of Health, to combat non-communicable diseases.

How can these projects contribute to clinical practice and policy?

The results of The China Rural Health Initiative could help improve performance and capacity across China’s primary care system, as well as demonstrate how to reduce population salt intake. The findings have also demonstrated that global collaboration is a feasible and effective way to prevent and control non-communicable diseases, for example, by building up strong local networks and working closely with them, and by actively engaging with government and other stakeholders to get your research disseminated.

Another example is our work with the CCmHI. The development of mobile health in China involves strong cooperation with government, leaders and expert practitioners in different fields, and through the CCmHI we are working to advance and translate high-quality scientific research on mobile health technology and tools into effective and efficient clinical and population health practice.

Where to from here?

We will strengthen our collaboration with Peking University Health Science Center, especially in public health policy, rural health, and clinical trials, while also establishing and expanding our new partnership with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, for example, in clinical and population research. We will continue our focus to address some of China’s biggest health priorities through high impact research.


Originally published in The George Institute for Global Health 2014-15 Annual Report