History of Medicine


An Open Access Journal

Public resistance against the anti-schistosomiasis campaign of the 1950–1960s in China

doi: 10.3897/hmj.5.3.32485

Ka-wai Fan

This article examines the anti-schistosomiasis campaign of the 1950–1960s from a new perspective, based on three historical sources from the central and local governments: the People’s Daily, Xuefangshi (anti-schistosomiasis records) and the learning documents from a brigade of Hubei province of 1964. The main impetus for eradicating schistosomiasis was to increase agricul­tural production and mobilize the people to actively participate in local construction projects. While existing literature on the campaign focuses on propaganda and government motivations, this article aims to build on this body of work by investigating how the central government of the People’s Republic of China promoted the three-day antimony potassium tartrate (APT) treatment and why villagers resisted the campaign. The People’s Daily offers the central government’s point of view, promoting the idea that the disease could be cured and that the three-day APT treatment, designed to shorten treatment period and lessen medical expense in comparison to long-term APT treatment, was safe and effective. However, Xuefangshi and the learning documents revealed that the villagers were not willing to undergo the three-day APT treatment because of their concern about medical expenses, the possibility of losing work points and agricultural production; the villagers devised creative ways of avoid­ing the treatment and providing fecal samples for examination. In addition, it was difficult to convince villagers to consent to hospitalization, though the central government advertised widely that the disease could be cured and that the three-day treat­ment was successful. This article also uses the health behavior model to explore the villagers’ behaviors with regard to avoiding the treatment. It concludes that although the central government promoted the treatment, the villagers did not respond well to the campaign.

Keywords Anti-Schistosomiasis Campaign, antimony potassium tartrate, China, People’s Daily, schistosomiasis


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