1986 Albert Lasker Public Service Award

Control of sexually transmitted diseases and leprosy in China

The American doctor who went to China in 1933, and by modifying western public health techniques within the cultural context of pre- and post-Revolutionary China, created new ways to control and eradicate venereal diseases in China which, even then, had a population of over 500 million people.

In 1936, he joined Mao ZeDong and Zhou Enlai and served, under their leadership, the desperate medical needs of the Red Army after the Long March to Yenan. He learned then, at first hand, of the heroism, strength and sense of common purpose among China's peasants. After Mao came into power in 1949, Dr. Ma helped to conceptualize and implement new health measures with which to control venereal diseases and other infections.

He trained a cadre corps for education, detection, treatment and prevention. These "barefoot doctors" became a central element in China's health care system. From a centrally organized and controlled program, they went out into each community to identify infected people and get them into treatment. In 1960, venereal diseases were declared eradicated in China.

Dr. Ma's contributions can be compared in importance to the eradication of yellow fever and the bubonic plague, and, as a model for the public health control of venereal diseases, they stand alone.

Convinced in the early 1960s that venereal diseases had been eliminated, Dr. Ma shifted the focus of his work to the eradication of leprosy. While the number of leprosy cases in the past 30 years in China has been reduced from 500,000 to 110,000 in 1984, Dr. Ma predicts that leprosy will be eradicated there by the year 2000.

To Dr. Ma Haide (George Hatem), whose legendary contributions to the conquest of venereal diseases and the eradication of leprosy in China have made medical history and improved the health and well-being of a billion people, this 1986 Albert Lasker Public Service Award is given.