Professor KK Cheng FMedSci

Professor KK Cheng

Institute of Applied Health Research
Professor of Public Health and Primary Care
Director of the Institute of Applied Health Research

Contact details

Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Institute of Applied Health Research
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
Birmingham, B15 2TT

KK Cheng (郑家强) has been Professor at the University of Birmingham since 1995. His main interests are in the epidemiology, prevention and control of important non-communicable diseases, and the development of primary care in China.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, KK was among the first researchers in western countries who advocated the importance of mask wearing in the community to control the pandemic (reference 4 below - published in The Lancet) on 2 March 2020. He questioned the guidance of the WHO on masks (reference 7) in the BMJ on 11 March and published a Comment summarising the importance of masks in The Lancet on 16 April. These have informed the debate on the issue, which culminated in the changes in national guidance in the US, Canada, the UK as well as that of the WHO.

He has published a number of other articles on COVID-19. These included commentaries on the timing of safe exit from lockdown (reference 3) and the role of Nightingale hospitals (reference 8) in the BMJ. An original research article on the role of PPE in the BMJ (reference 1) has attracted much international attention. It shows that good PPE offers full protection against occupational exposures and argues that governments must do more to avoid nosocomial infections in the second wave.

  1. Liu M, Cheng SZ…Cheng KK, Xiao HP. Appropriate personal protective equipment protects healthcare professionals from COVID-19. BMJ 2020;369:m2195. Published 2020 June 10. doi:
  2. Jordan RE, Adab P, Cheng KK. Covid-19: risk factors for severe disease and death. BMJ. 2020;368:m1198. Published 2020 Mar 26. doi:10.1136/bmj.m1198
  3. Cheng KK, Gong WJ. Covid-19: How can we safely exit lockdown? BMJ
  4. Leung CC, Lam TH, Cheng KK. Mass masking in the COVID-19 epidemic: people need guidance. Lancet. 2020;395(10228):945. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30520-18:m1198.
  5. Cheng KK, Lam TH, Leung CC. Wearing face masks in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic: altruism and solidarity [published online ahead of print, 2020 Apr 16]. Lancet. 2020;S0140-6736(20)30918-1. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30918-1
  6. Leung CC, Lam TH, Cheng KK. Let us not forget the mask in our attempts to stall the spread of COVID-19. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2020;24(4):364‐366. doi:10.5588/ijtld.20.0124
  7. Chan A, Leung CC, Lam TH, Cheng KK. To wear or not to wear: WHO’s confusing guidance on masks in the covid-19 pandemic. BMJ
  8. Lasserson D, Cheng KK. Is there a role for Fangcang hospitals in the UK? BMJ
  9. Pollock AM, Roderick P, Cheng KK, Pankhania B. Covid-19: why is the UK government ignoring WHO's advice?. BMJ. 2020;368:m1284. Published 2020 Mar 30. doi:10.1136/bmj.m1284


  • Fellow, Academy of Medical Sciences, UK 2012
  • FRCGP 2010
  • FFPHM 1997
  • PhD University of Cambridge 1997
  • MBBS, The University of Hong Kong 1984
  • BSc, The University of Hong Kong 1984


Postgraduate supervision

KK has supervised over 20 doctoral students at the University of Birmingham. Important examples of publications arising from their theses include:

Jokhio AH, Winter HR, Cheng KK. An intervention involving traditional birth attendants and perinatal and maternal mortality in Pakistan. N Engl J Med. 2005;352:2091-9. (This was one of the first research papers from Pakistan published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In helping to bring about a change of emphasis from a solely health centre one to multiple delivery approaches (i.e. in communities as well as health facilities), the findings have contributed towards the strategies towards two Millenium Development Goals.)

Yin P, Jiang CQ,  Cheng KK, Lam TH, Lam KL, Miller MR, Zhang WS, Thomas NG, Adab P. Passive smoking exposure and risk of COPD among adults in China: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. Lancet 2007; 370:751-7. (selected by the International Advisory Board of The Lancet as one of the research papers worldwide “that make the greatest potential contribution to clinical research” in 2007)

Aveyard P, Cheng KK, Almond J, Sherratt E, Lancashire R, Lawrence T, Griffin C, Evans O. Cluster randomised controlled trial of expert system based on the transtheoretical (“stages of change”) model for smoking prevention and cessation in schools. British Medical Journal 1999; 319:948-53. (This was the first fast track article published by the British Medical Journal since its establishment in 1840. The paper has played a major role in the practice of smoking prevention in schools in this country and further afield.)

Zhang D, Yin P, Freemantle N, Jordan R, Zhong N, Cheng KK. An assessment of the quality of randomised controlled trials conducted in China. Trials 2008;9:22.


Cancer and Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Clinical Trials, Health Services Research

Other activities

KK is the Academic Lead of the University’s project to develop a centre in Guangzhou in collaboration with the Guangzhou Municipal Government.

He is also active in primary care in China. As the lead member on health on the British Government's China Task Force, he has developed collaboration between the UK China in primary care. He founded the Department of General Practice at Peking University Health Science Center in May 2011 and is Honorary Head and Professor.

KK is Honorary Consultant in Public Health Medicine, Public Health England. He also holds an Honorary Chair at the University of Hong Kong.



Prevention and control of cancer and chronic disease; the development of primary healthcare and general practitioner training in China


Epidemiology, prevention and control of important non-communicable diseases