Research Focus Areas

Built on the principles of scientific excellence and reciprocal collaboration

The Global Health Research Center establishes interdisciplinary, mutually-beneficial collaborative relationships with researchers from China and other low- and middle-income countries, and applies the latest research to important health problems.

The Global Health Research Center focuses its efforts in three areas:

  1. Non-communicable Diseases
  2. Environmental Health
  3. Health Policy and Systems


Non-communicable Diseases
Non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs) have rapidly becoming the largest health problem facing the world including both high-income and low-and middle-income countries.  In China, for example, over 80% of all deaths are caused by NCDs. Prevention and control of NCDs is an urgent global and national public health priority. For the NCD research program at the Global Health Research Center, Duke Kunshan University, we initially focus on heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and diabetes and common risk factors for these and other conditions such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, inadequate physical activity, overweight/obesity, and mental illnesses. We examine causes of and risks associated with these conditions through epigenetic, metabolomic and epidemiological methods. We also explore and innovate ways for promoting health through multiple behavioral changes, use of information and communication technology, improvement of healthcare quality, health systems research, and other approaches. Our emphases are on wellness and prevention and how to translate scientific evidence to practices and policies.   

Environmental Health
Following decades of rapid economic growth, environmental risk factors have become a major source of morbidity and mortality in China and other low- and middle-income countries. With improvements in economic status and lessons learned from the environmental policies and challenges faced by other nations, China has an opportunity to address its environmental health challenges and become an international leader in global environmental health. The Global Health Research Center undertakes studies on environmental health hazards and approaches for reducing them. For example, indoor air quality is a major issue in China because most of China’s rural population and a declining proportion of its urban population burn wood and coal for cooking and heating. Indoor air pollution is responsible for increased rates of cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Over 400,000 premature deaths occur annually due to exposure to indoor pollutants.  More research is needed to document the extent and geographical concentration of this health hazard, as well as to test the effectiveness of various interventions (e.g. design and distribution of more efficient stoves).

Health Policy and Systems
The Chinese government has enacted health system reform in recent years to improve access to health care and meet the basic needs of over a billion people spread over a vast and diverse landscape.  As the country transitions to a market economy, the government of China aims to establish a health care system that serves all Chinese citizens and ensures their access to public health services and medical care through either social health insurance or government-supported health insurance schemes. This overhaul also includes improvement of health facilities, training of health personnel, and distribution of resources more equitably. Accurate collection and analysis of data will be crucial to the monitoring, evaluation and continual improvement of these reforms. The Global Health Research Center conducts research that monitors and evaluates the progress of the health reforms being enacted, with the goal of informing subsequent policy decisions.