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Mobility and health sector development in China and India


  • Holdaway, Jennifer
  • Levitt, Peggy
  • Fang, Jing
  • Rajaram, Narasimhan


China and India are both attempting to create comprehensive healthcare systems in the context of rapid but uneven economic growth and rapidly changing burdens of disease. While in each country the referencing of international policies and work experience abroad have been part of this process, research has yet to examine the kind of knowledge that is exchanged or the various actors involved in knowledge circulation. Based on a study of two sub-national contexts, this article focuses on the role Chinese and Indian health professionals who have studied and worked overseas play in introducing ideas and practices about healthcare provision and health education. We found that experience abroad influenced individuals, institutions, and each society differently and with some contradictory effects. International experience clearly contributed to personal growth and led individuals to support the adoption of new institutional practices, such as more egalitarian relations between doctors and patients and between students and teachers. However, the content of what individuals learned overseas and the mechanisms through which this knowledge was introduced back into homeland settings often reinforced rather than ameliorated institutional hierarchies and social inequalities. While the scope of this research was limited, we suggest that more explicit analysis of the role professional migrants play in transferring ideas and practices within the health sector would be valuable for policymakers and funders seeking to support a more productive interaction between local and global knowledge.

Suggested Citation

  • Holdaway, Jennifer & Levitt, Peggy & Fang, Jing & Rajaram, Narasimhan, 2015. "Mobility and health sector development in China and India," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 268-276.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:130:y:2015:i:c:p:268-276
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.02.017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fang, Pengqian & Dong, Siping & Xiao, Jingjing & Liu, Chaojie & Feng, Xianwei & Wang, Yiping, 2010. "Regional inequality in health and its determinants: Evidence from China," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 14-25, January.
    2. Kangasniemi, Mari & Winters, L. Alan & Commander, Simon, 2007. "Is the medical brain drain beneficial? Evidence from overseas doctors in the UK," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(5), pages 915-923, September.
    3. Filc, D., 2004. "The medical text: between biomedicine and hegemony," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(6), pages 1275-1285, September.
    4. Lant Pritchett & Michael Woolcock & Matt Andrews, 2013. "Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(1), pages 1-18, January.
    5. Bloom, Gerald & Standing, Hilary, 2008. "Future health systems: Why future? Why now?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(10), pages 2067-2075, May.
    6. Okeke, Edward N., 2013. "Brain drain: Do economic conditions “push” doctors out of developing countries?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 169-178.
    7. Bennett, Colin J., 1991. "How States Utilize Foreign Evidence," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 31-54, January.
    8. Robertson, David Brian, 1991. "Political Conflict and Lesson-Drawing," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 55-78, January.
    9. Dani Rodrik, 2008. "Second-Best Institutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 100-104, May.
    10. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-63 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Dummer, Trevor J.B. & Cook, Ian G., 2008. "Health in China and India: A cross-country comparison in a context of rapid globalisation," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(4), pages 590-605, August.
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