Crowdsourcing as a Tool for Enhancing Public Health Programs in China

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Convener: School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, University of Oxford China Centre

Speaker: Joseph D. Tucker

In 1906, the crowd at a county fair in England guessed the weight of an ox.  The median guess of the crowd was accurate to within 2% of the actual weight and better than guesses from agricultural experts. This demonstrates the power of crowdsourcing in specific contexts. Crowdsourcing is having a group solve a problem and then sharing the solution with the public. This talk will examine the limits and potential of crowdsourcing as a tool for solving public health problems in China. Crowdsourcing has been shown to be effective for creating health messages, informing policy, and engaging local communities. For example, our ‘Healthy Cities’ contest in partnership with the Lancet commission on Healthy Cities in China allowed the public in China to describe how they were making their local city healthy. Crowdsourcing may be a useful tool for increasing the accountability and transparency of people-oriented programs.

Joseph D. Tucker, MD, PhD, AM is an infectious diseases physician with a special interest in using crowdsourcing to improve health.  He is UNC Assistant Professor of Medicine, Director of UNC Project-China, and Chairman of SESH Global. He leads US National Institutes of Health grants totalling over seven million USD. His team’s ongoing research investigates crowdsourcing to promote HIV testing, the social science and ethics of curing HIV, the health of African migrants in Guangzhou, and trust in patient-physician relationships.  His New England Journal of Medicine article on the social roots of syphilis in China helped catalyze policy change and spurred the development of a national 10 year plan to control syphilis.  He is the Chairman of the Steering Committee of Social Entrepreneurship for Sexual Health (SESH,, a group focused on using crowdsourcing to improve health. He has contributed to several World Health Organization guidelines. Joe received his BA from Swarthmore, MD from UNC, AM (RSEA) from Harvard, and PhD from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.