The China Quarterly

Special Section on Dying for Development

Environment and Health Research in China: The State of the Field  *

Jennifer Holdaway

Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and Forum on Health, Environment and Development (FORHEAD). Email:


In the context of this symposium, this article reviews social science research in the emerging field of environment and health in China, with a particular focus on the impacts of pollution. It begins with a discussion of the particular nature of China's environment-related health problems, distinguishing the different challenges presented by diseases of poverty, affluence and transition. It then reviews recent developments in policy and civil society with regard to environment and health, and the extent to which work in the social sciences has advanced our knowledge of these and of state–society interactions. The article concludes with some reflections on the need for and challenges of interdisciplinary and international collaboration in this area.

(Online publication May 13 2013)


  • environment;
  • health;
  • regional development;
  • governance;
  • interdisciplinary research;
  • China

Jennifer Holdaway is a programme director and China representative at the Social Science Research Council. She heads the China Environment and Health Initiative (CEHI) and is co-director of the interdisciplinary Forum on Health, Environment and Development (FORHEAD).


*  This work is supported by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.