In a week-long January 2013 trip to China, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Dean Julio Frenk brought an important message about public health: that it’s essential to continued human progress.

Frenk’s trip, which took him to Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong, was aimed at strengthening HSPH’s existing ties in China, connecting with health sector leaders, and meeting with some 150 alumni and other supporters of the School.

In Hong Kong, Frenk gave a speech to members of the Asia Society, a leading nongovernmental organization that promotes understanding and partnerships among peoples, leaders, and institutions of the Asia-Pacific region and the United States. Frenk spoke of “the profoundly important connection” between public health and economic growth, and of ways that HSPH can work with the government, organizations, businesses, and individuals to help promote both public health and prosperity in China.

“For decades, the connection between health and economic growth was viewed as a simple, unidirectional relationship: Economic growth promotes health through better living conditions, including investments in sanitary infrastructure and housing, improved nutrition, and increased access to education,” Frenk told the audience. “As we know now, this is far from the whole story. More and more, research is demonstrating that good health is not only a consequence but also a condition for sustained and sustainable economic growth.”

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