Joint CCOUC-Harvard Disaster Preparedness and Health Education Mission
Close to 30 academics and students from CCOUC and two academics from Harvard School of Public Health visited the flood-prone Hongyan Village at Xide County in the poor Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture of southern Sichuan Province from 28 March to 1 April 2014 as the latest mission under CCOUC Ethnic Minority Health Project (EMHP). The village is an eight hours’ drive away from the provincial capital Chengdu.
Hongyan Village is one of the 169 villages in the Xide County, located 5 km from its closest Township – Lianghekou. The last mile to the village is not accessible to vehicles and it is an hour’s uphill walk. On 31 August 2012, a major flood occurred at Xide County, which caused massive damage to the local community. By 14 September 2012, 218,000 local residents were affected, 13,300 households collapsed, and 29,000 houses have been seriously damaged. As to human casualty, one death and two missing were reported. It is estimated that the total economic losses has reached RMB1.69 billion. The flooding caused huge destruction to infrastructures including roads, water supply, telephone and broadcasting facilities, temporarily cutting off the county from outside world in terms of both road connection and information flow.
Hongyan Village is composed of four sub-groups of 218 households and 826 residents. Villagers live along the bank of flood-prone Sunshui River and farming is their major income source. Crops including rice, maize, and potato and livestock such as pigs, ducks and cattles are typical agricultural products. The average annual individual income is around RMB700-800, which is far below the UN national poverty line (>USD1.25/day). Due to the mountainous landscape and the lack of financial support, local residents are suffering from the poor road conditions, which make them isolated to the outside world.
During the last visit on 19-23 December 2012, CCOUC conducted a health needs assessment in the village. The CCOUC team identified a number of disaster preparedness and public health gaps in the local community, which form the basis of the health intervention for this visit.
Hongyan village is one of the research and training sites under CCOUC Ethnic Minority Health Project (EMHP). The aims of this trip are 1) to provide opportunities for students to gain and integrate public health concepts into field-work experiences especially in a post-disaster setting; 2) to explore the disaster preparedness, mental health issues and nutrition issues of local population by key informant interviews and household visits; and 3) to deliver health education program to local villagers and evaluate the impact of the program.
The mission was led by Professor Emily Chan, Director of CCOUC and Center for Global Health, JC School of Public Health and Primary Care, CUHK.
Prof. Jennifer Leaning, Director of the Harvard François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, helped assess the EMHP and gave advice on how international experience and insights in disaster preparedness could be adopted in a Chinese ethnic minority rural setting. This has the potential of turning into a case study for undergraduate and postgraduate training at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Further research collaboration between CCOUC and HSPH in disaster public health in rural ethnic minority communities in China will be developed from this trip.
Prof. Vincent MOK, Professor and Assistant Dean (Clinical) of the Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong joined to assess the EMHP and how it could be integrated into the Global Physician-Leadership Stream (GPS) for high-flying medical students of the University.
Dr. Elizabeth Newnham, a research fellow of CCOUC, Harvard University, Oxford University and The University of Western Australia, collected data regarding the post-disaster mental health conditions of villagers in this trip.
Ms. Wenwen DU, Assistant Research Professor at the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) and a CCOUC fellow, joined the team to conduct research in nutrition issues in disaster.
Video of the trip available here.