2012 Alumni Award of Merit

Ching-Chuan Yeh, MPH '81

Dr. Ching-Chuan Yeh has been a leader in the planning and implementation of a national health insurance system, and as Minister of Health, a key figure in the direction of policy and an advocate for public health in Taiwan.

Dr. Yeh graduated from the Medical College of the National Taiwan University (NTU), where he volunteered to join the medical service groups for less-developed areas, learning firsthand of the challenges faced in the pursuit of quality medical care. That experience led him to pursue an MPH at NTU, followed by an MPH in Epidemiology at HSPH, with a goal of bringing positive changes to Taiwan’s health care system.

Soon after that he began a twenty-year public service career in the Taiwanese government. In 1983, he became the youngest Bureau Director at the Department of Health and began drafting what would become the Medical Care Act, developing guidelines for the safe delivery of medical care. Regarded as “the constitution of health care,” the Act was formally passed in 1986. To address affordability, Dr. Yeh refocused his efforts and helped draft the National Health Insurance (NHI) Act, then helped to negotiate its passage in the Taiwan legislature amid less-than enthusiastic political support and despite resistance from lobbyists for opposing interests. Serving as the first President of the Bureau of National Health Insurance, the system officially launched in 1995, integrating what had been an unfair, inconsistent and confusing network of providers into a universal, single-payer and premium-based health insurance system, expanding coverage to not just the working population, but also spouses, children, veterans, students, the unemployed and the elderly. Thus far, the coverage rate is 99%, with a satisfaction rate of more than 70%, successfully bringing health care on par with that in the United States to most of the population.

During the global outbreak of SARS in 2003, when the government responded irrationally and called for the closure of a hospital, Dr. Yeh left his post as a lecturer at the Tzu Chi University and volunteered to step in. By entering the quarantined facility, taking up residence and assisting over-burdened staff, he was able to quell fears, applying knowledge and science to a public health emergency. Dr. Yeh utilized limited online resources, contacts at the Centers for Disease Control and his own training and expertise in epidemiology to develop and enforce standard operating procedures to contain the outbreak.

As Executive Director at the John Tung Foundation (JTF), Dr. Yeh was able to greatly influence another public health initiative: promoting and cultivating a non-smoking environment on college campuses. Tapping the support of figures with power and appeal, government officials and pop singers were invited to sign a declaration "Refusing Amphetamine.” Through his work at the Foundation and as a professor at the College of Medicine in Tzu Chi University, he imparted to students the importance of being credible, an attribute he demonstrates by example.