Digital Tools for Cancer Control Equity in China (2022-2023)

Important note: This team is a joint project between Duke and Duke Kunshan University. This team seeks student participants from both campuses. Prospective applicants should be prepared to collaborate across countries, which may necessitate virtual meetings in the early morning or late evening to accommodate time zone differences. 


Cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally. China, as a country experiencing economic transition, faces extraordinary challenges managing increasing cancer rates caused by both infections and illnesses associated with more sedentary lifestyles and richer diets. According to the GLOBOCAN2020 report, China accounted for 24% of all newly diagnosed cancer cases and 30% of the deaths worldwide. Moreover, there were significant cancer morbidity and mortality disparities across different regions and subpopulations in China. For instance, the overall incidence rate in urban areas was higher than that in rural areas, while the overall mortality rate in rural areas was higher than that in the urban areas. Both the incidence and mortality rates among men were significantly higher than those among women.    

Although the World Health Organization has recommended a set of interventions for cancer prevention and control, many of which have been implemented in China over the past ten years, there is not a comprehensive picture of cancer prevention and control in China. Computer-based technologies and tools, like Geographic Information System (GIS), can help develop a comprehensive view by synthesizing cancer-related data, policies, interventions and historical information; however, these tools have not yet been widely applied in China. 

Project Description

The primary goal of this project is to design and develop an interactive, participatory and evolving website that presents a comprehensive picture of cancer burden, disparities and practices in China to aid cancer prevention and control advocacy and research. 

Specifically, the team will use GIS and web-based tools to achieve five related goals: 

  • Organize publicly available cancer-related epidemiological data
  • Visualize cancer burdens, disparities and related socioeconomic and cultural context across different regions and demographic subpopulations
  • Digitize national/local cancer-related policy and intervention documents
  • Map current government and non-government resources for cancer prevention and care
  • Describe and present cancer experience and challenges from different stakeholders' perspectives in China

 This project will include three phases:

  1. Preparation: The team will submit an IRB application for approval and students will participate in training for systematic review and meta-analysis, GIS technologies and software use, website design and development, as well as other related skills. 
  2. Information Synthesis: Team members will conduct a systematic review of cancer-related literature, policies, documents, databases, interventions (e.g., clinical trials, healthy lifestyle education and promotion programs), support resources, experience and challenge stories, and artworks from a variety of sources (e.g., peer-reviewed journals, government and non-government agencies and organization, libraries, museum, social media). Select team members will conduct fieldwork in China (e.g., Beijing, Wuhan, Yunnan, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Chongqing) to interview key informants (e.g., policy makers, care providers, patients, care takers). 
  3. Digital Visualization: Team members will use GIS and web-based technologies and tools to design and develop an interactive and participatory website to map cancer burden and relevant data, archive cancer prevention and control policies and interventions documents, list support resources, and present cancer experience and challenge stories and images. Students will also participate in grant proposal and manuscript writing, as well as cancer advocacy artworks and events (e.g., photovoice exhibit).  

This work will raise awareness of cancer issues; identify the gaps in cancer research and practices; provide evidence for nationwide cancer prevention and control guidance; inform local policy and intervention development; and ultimately, reduce cancer burden and disparities in China. 

Anticipated Outputs

Interactive and participatory website with up-to-date cancer-related information in China; list of data sources for cancer research in China; manuscripts/abstracts for journal and conference dissemination; grant proposal for external funding; photovoice exhibit for cancer advocacy.  

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will be comprised of 4 graduate students and 6 undergraduate students from both Duke and DKU. Preferred skills and backgrounds include an interest in health issues in China; experience in systematic review, GIS technologies and tools; website design and development; the ability to work with a multidisciplinary team that spans countries; and the ability to provide valuable insights from artistic, humanistic, scientific and holistic perspectives. 

Students will gain experience conducting a systematic review, designing and developing a website, utilizing GIS technologies and tools, digitizing documents, creating interactive data visualizations, conducting data collection and analysis, employing Chinese language skills, contributing to manuscript and grant proposal writing, and creating artworks and events for health advocacy. Students will enhance their leadership and interdisciplinary collaboration skills, enlarge their global perspectives and increase their cultural competency by working with colleagues from different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds across campuses and countries. Students will also gain an in-depth understanding of the cancer burden and challenges in China, which may help them to further identify their academic passion and inspire them with future research ideas and projects. 
This team will be organized into three subteams, each ideally composed of a graduate student mentor from Duke and several undergraduates from both campuses, working on different perspectives of the project: computer/data and environment science majors; social science majors (e.g., cultural anthropology, global health, public policy); and arts and humanities majors (e.g., history, Asian/China study, media arts). Graduate student mentors will lead subgroup meetings, monitor project progress, facilitate the exchange of ideas across the groups, and report to the PIs on a weekly basis. In Fall 2022, the team will tentatively meet on Fridays from 8:00-10:00 a.m. (China time); i.e., Thursdays from 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET for students in Durham.

This team seeks a graduate student from DKU to serve as the project manager. 

Select students located in China will have the opportunity to participate in fieldwork within China (e.g., Beijing, Yunnan, Jiangsu, Chongqing, Wuhan, Shanghai). Team members outside of China may have to opportunity to join field interviews virtually.

See the related Data+ project for Summer 2022; there is a separate application process for students who are interested in this optional component.


Fall 2022 – Spring 2023

  • Fall 2022: Begin literature and information search and review; conduct field trips to different regions of China to collect primary and secondary information 
  • Spring 2023: Continue field trips to different regions of China; create interactive and participatory website development; write manuscript and grant proposal; prepare photovoice exhibit on campuses 


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters

See related Data+ summer project, Analyzing the Gap in Cancer Control Equity in China (2022).


Image: Duke Kunshan University in March 2016, by Chris Hildreth

Duke Kunshan University.

Team Leaders

  • Meifang Chen, Duke Kunshan University
  • Ivan Mura, Duke Kunshan University
  • Shenglan Tang, Population Health Sciences

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Mengjie Zou, Duke Kunshan University

/zcommunity Team Members

  • National Cancer Center of China