Less than 5 percent of Chinese cities had top-ranked officials with public health or medical backgrounds (PHMBGs). Does professionalism improve their response to a public crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic? Collecting resumes of government and Party officials in almost all prefectural Chinese cities, and matching with other data sources, including weather conditions, city characteristics, COVID-19-related policies, and health outcomes, we demonstrate that cities 15 whose top officials had PHMBGs witnessed significantly lower infection rates, and often lower death rates, than cities whose top officials lacked such backgrounds. Mechanism testing suggests that the effects were at least partially explained by more rapid lockdown or community closure. Our findings offer insights into better preparation for future epidemics via improving leadership team composition, particularly recruiting major officials with PHMBGs.
Competing Interest Statement
The authors have declared no competing interest.
Financial support from the China Central University Special Scientific Fund, the U.S. PEPPER Center Scholar Award (P30AG021342), and two NIH/NIA grants (K01AG053408; R03AG048920) are acknowledged.
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