Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, August 12, 2010

School of Public Health partners with China to fight vaccine-preventable diseases

The School of Public Health (SPH) and China will partner under a new grant to characterize the epidemiology of vaccine-preventable diseases in China and improve control efforts there.

The National Institutes of Health International Collaborations in Infectious Disease Research grant of $3.62 million over five years was awarded to Matthew Boulton, associate professor and associate dean of SPH.

Boulton developed the grant proposal in partnership with the national China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing and the Provincial Centers for Disease Control in Tianjin. The grant was one of 12 awarded nationally.

Boulton, also an associate professor of internal medicine at the Medical School, says the grant places special focus on measles, which is epidemic in China. It also provides funding for U-M researchers to provide technical and scientific training to expand core epidemiologic and laboratory capacity in China’s public health system in order to better address vaccine-preventable diseases and other infectious disease threats.

The World Health Organization had slated the Pan Asian Pacific region, including China, for measles elimination by 2012. Although many of the countries in this region have made great strides towards elimination, China continues to struggle with control of measles and more than 100,000 cases occurred in 2008, with Tianjin experiencing some of the highest rates in that country.

Specifically, U-M researchers will conduct studies to better understand risks for contracting disease and to assess population-level immunity to measles. Researchers will also develop and provide training in epidemiology and laboratory science for professional staff at both the Tianjin CDC and the China CDC, Boulton says. In addition to the China CDC, which serves the entire country, there are roughly 3,000 smaller CDCs of varying size in China, he says.

“We will then provide these technical trainings to all CDC staff across the entire country,” Boulton says. “The intent would be to extend the reach of our trainings in epidemiology and laboratory science throughout the whole of the country’s public health system.”

SPH and Boulton have a history of partnering with China through the China Scholars Exchange Program, which Boulton founded in 2006 and still directs. China appointed Boulton a senior adviser to the Tianjin CDC in June 2009, at the same time the government presented him with an award for his contributions to building public health in China.

The NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases funded the proposal.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman traveled to China in June to strengthen and celebrate new and long-standing partnerships in research and education. For more information on the trip to China, go to: