The Forum on Health, Environment and Development (FORHEAD)

The Forum on Health, Environment and Development (FORHEAD) is an interdisciplinary network that brings together natural, medical and social scientists to explore the implications of environmental and social change for public health in China and beyond.

As of 1 January 2020, FORHEAD has moved its international base to the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS), where FORHEAD co-director Jennifer Holdaway is now affiliated and will continue to coordinate the network and its efforts. 

In this current phase, the focus of the programme at IIAS will be on the distilling and disseminating of the network's findings.


Environmental and social change have powerful impacts on public health, but interactions between natural and social systems are complex and fluid. Understanding and addressing them requires diverse forms of knowledge and the engagement of multiple actors. In China, the situation is complicated by the sheer pace of change and by the fact that different regions and populations face different problems as the result of their diverse environmental conditions and development pathways.

Since 2008 FORHEAD has sought to strengthen the knowledge base for responding to environmental and health problems in China and promote the more effective uptake of existing knowledge. It has fostered the development of a cohort of professionals able to work effectively on these issues from a perspective that is holistic and problem-oriented rather than narrowly discipline-based or technical. Our focus is on environment and health challenges associated with rapid industrialization, the intensification of agriculture and urbanization.

FORHEAD’s work has evolved through several stages from field mapping, through the building of the network and development of research sites through small grants and summer institutes to a focus on specific issues through working groups.

Programme Focus

In this current phase of our work, we are focusing on distilling and disseminating our findings and experience through additional publications and curriculum materials that can be used by a wide range of different institutions. We will also be exploring the implications of China’s experience for other countries, particularly in the context of China’s growing international engagement.

More information

FORHEAD website

Please note that the FORHEAD website may be down for maintenance (January 2020). 



Downnload the FORHEAD our brochure (pdf).