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China bestows Friendship Award on Emory global health leader

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Holly Korschun

Jeffrey P. Koplan will receive the Friendship Award, China’s highest award for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country's economic and social progress.

Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH, vice president for global health at Emory University, will receive a 2013 People's Republic of China Friendship Award in a ceremony in Beijing on Sept. 30. The Friendship Award is China’s highest award for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country's economic and social progress. The awards ceremony will be part of the celebration for the National Day of the People’s Republic of China.

Koplan was actively involved for more than 30 years in the creation and development of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), which nominated him for the award and held a pre-ceremony celebration on Friday, Sept. 27.

Koplan was appointed Vice President for Global Health at Emory University in 2008. He served as founding director of the Emory Global Health Institute from 2006 until 2012. Prior to joining Emory as Vice President for Academic Health Affairs in 2002, he was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1998 to 2002.

"Jeff Koplan is a true global citizen, and he exemplifies the Emory vision of working collaboratively for positive transformation in the world through courageous leadership," says Emory President James Wagner. "I speak for all of Emory when I express our great pride in Dr. Koplan and his work and for his role in building collaborations with our valued Chinese partners."

Koplan’s collaborations with China span 33 years, including 44 trips, working in more than 23 provinces. His activities include:

  • Co-leader of the U.S. – China Collaboration on Public Health and Health Services Research for 12 years.
  • Team member on five World Bank health loans on multiple topics (maternal and child health, medical education, rural health, immunizations, HIV/AIDS, TB, tobacco control, health care, chronic diseases), with a total value of more than $435 million.
  • Active in tobacco control issues in China since 1981.
  • Promoted extensive exchange of U.S. and Chinese scientists.
  • Board member of the China Medical Board, supporting Chinese health professional schools since 1914.
  • Authored more than 15 scientific publications on health issues in China.

"I am grateful and humbled to receive this China Friendship Award," says Koplan. "I have enjoyed incredible partnerships and made lifelong friendships with Chinese collaborators from government, academia and community. China has made tremendous strides in improving the health and longevity of its people and it’s been a real privilege to have been welcomed to participate in some of these efforts."

The current China Friendship award grew out of the award established in the 1950s in honor of experts from the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. On the eve of National Day, the then Premier Zhou Enlai and Foreign Minister Chen Yi presented a letter of thanks to the foreign experts who made special contributions to China. After the reopening of China, the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs resumed the Friendship Award in 1991. Approximately 50 foreign experts receive the Friendship Award every year.

Koplan has led the Emory Global Health Institute – China Tobacco Control Partnership (GHI-CTP) since 2008, when it received initial funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The partnership has supported the development of comprehensive tobacco control programs in cities throughout China.

The partnership recently announced remarkable success in curbing tobacco use through its Tobacco-Free Cities Program. The first three years of the program resulted in the adoption of smoke-free policies and significant social norm change in targeted cities. The Tobacco-Free Cities Program has assisted Chinese partners in developing and implementing locally tailored evidence-based tobacco control initiatives in 17 cities.

These cities have created smoke-free hospitals, workplaces, schools, government buildings and more. In addition to these targeted achievements, three cities have legislated total bans on smoking in public places, and three more are expected to adopt smoke-free public places policies this year.

"Our goal is to decrease tobacco-related disease and death by changing the social norms around tobacco use," says Pamela Redmon, GHI-CTP executive director. "In addition to the smoke-free policies, we have created specific programs targeting pregnant women and families, community programs, smoke-free weddings, and cessation competitions using an innovative 'Text2Quit' platform." 

In addition to the GHI-CTP, Koplan has worked with other Chinese partners to examine health care reform strategies. In 2011, the Emory Global Health Institute partnered with Zhejiang University School of Medicine and the China Medical Board to host more than 250 researchers and scholars from China and the United States at a conference held at Emory University entitled Westlake Forum III: Healthcare Reform in China and the U.S.: Similarities, Differences, and Challenges.

These researchers and scholars compared healthcare reform in the two countries and its impact on cost, quality, and access to care. To encourage continued discussion and collaboration between Chinese and U.S. researchers, the China Medical Board provided funds to Koplan to solicit seed grants from Emory faculty. As a result, EGHI has supported projects that focus on environmental health and mental health issues in China.

During his career Koplan has worked on virtually every major public health issue, including infectious diseases such as smallpox and HIV/AIDS, environmental issues such as the Bhopal chemical disaster, and the health toll of tobacco and chronic diseases, both in the United States and around the globe.

Koplan is a graduate of Yale College, the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health. He is a Master of the American College of Physicians and a member of the Institute of Medicine. He has served on many advisory groups and consultancies in the U.S. and overseas.

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