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Journal Articles

Early Parenting Interventions to Foster Human Capital in Developing Countries

Dorien Emmers, Juan Carlos Caro, Scott Rozelle, Sean Sylvia
Annual Review of Resource Economics, 2022 June 13, 2022

One out of every three children under age 5 in developing countries lives in conditions that impede human capital development. In this study, we survey the literature on parenting training programs implemented before age 5, with the aim to increase parental investment in human capital accumulation in developing countries. Our review focuses on the implementation and effectiveness of parenting training programs (i.e., training in child psychosocial stimulation and/or training about nutrition). We emphasize the mechanisms that drive treatment-induced change in human capital outcomes and identify the demand- and supply-side behaviors that affect efficacy and effectiveness. Although the literature includes evidence on program features that are associated with successful interventions, further evidence on the dynamics of human capital formation, documentation of medium- to long-term persistence of treatment impacts, and research on the implementation and evaluation of programs at scale are needed to delineate a scalable and inclusive program that provides long-term treatment impacts.

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Journal Articles

Impact of Vision Impairment and Ocular Morbidity and their Treatment on Depression and Anxiety in Children: A Systematic Review

Dongfeng Li, Ving Fai Chan, Gianni Virgili, Prabhath Piyasena, Habtamu Negash, Noelle Whitestone, Sarah O'Connor, Baixiang Xiao, Mike Clarke, David Cherwek, Manpreet Singh, Xinshu She, Huan Wang, Matthew Boswell, Grace Prakalapakorn, Jennifer patnaik, Nathan Congdon
Ophthalmology, 2022 May 31, 2022

Topic
This systematic review and meta-analysis summarizes existing evidence to establish whether vision impairment, ocular morbidity and their treatment are associated with depression and anxiety in children.

Clinical Relevance
Understanding and quantifying these associations support early detection and management of mental health symptoms in children with vision impairment and ocular morbidity. Additionally, this review provides evidence in favour of insurance coverage for timely strabismus surgery.

Methods
We searched nine electronic databases from inception to February 18, 2021, including observational and interventional studies assessing whether vision impairment and/or ocular morbidity and their treatment are associated with depression and/or anxiety in children. We used narrative synthesis and meta-analysis with the residual maximum likelihood method. A protocol was registered and published on The International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO, CRD42021233323).

Results
Among 28,992 studies, 28,956 (99.9%) were excluded as duplicates or unrelated content. Among 36 remaining studies, 21 (58.3%) were observational studies concerning vision impairment, eight (22.2%) were observational studies concerning strabismus, and seven (19.4%) were interventional studies. Vision-impaired children experienced significantly higher scores of depression (Standard Mean Difference [SMD] 0.57, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.26-0.89, 11 studies) and anxiety (SMD 0.61, 95% CI 0.40-0.821, 14 studies) than normally-sighted children. In particular, myopic children experienced higher scores of depression (SMD 0.59, 95% CI 0.36-0.81, six studies) than normally-sighted children. Strabismus surgery significantly improved symptoms of depression (SMD: 0.59 95% CI 0.12-1.06, three studies) and anxiety (SMD: 0.69 95% CI 0.24-1.14, four studies) in children.

Discussion
Among children, vision impairment is associated with greater symptoms of depression and anxiety. Surgical treatment of strabismus improved these symptoms. Further randomized controlled trials exploring the impact of public health measures for myopia correction on mental health in children are needed. Scaling up access to strabismus surgery could improve the mental health of affected children.

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Journal Articles

Stuck in the Middle School Rut: Can Anything Improve Academic Achievement in Rural Chinese Middle Schools?

Fei Qin, Huanmin Hu, Prashant Loyalka, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Development Effectiveness, 2022 May 1, 2022

Academic achievement in middle schools in rural China remains poor for many students. This study examines whether programmes and interventions can improve academic achievement by reviewing rigorous experimental evaluations of nine programmes (11 interventions) on 47,480 rural middle school students in China. The results find none of the interventions improved academic achievement. Moreover, we find no evidence for heterogeneous treatment effects by student gender, age or previous academic achievement. These results may be due in part to the academically-demanding nature of the middle school curriculum, which is applied universally to students with varying levels of cognitive ability.

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Journal Articles

Exploring Teacher Job Satisfaction in Rural China: Prevalence and Correlates

Huan Wang, Claire Cousineau, Bill Wang, Lucy Zeng, Andrew Sun, Ezra Kohrman, Nick Li, Esther Tok, Matthew Boswell, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2022 March 16, 2022

Extant research continues to establish the importance of teacher job satisfaction to student performance, yet teacher job satisfaction remains under-investigated in rural China. In this paper, we examine the prevalence and correlates of teacher job satisfaction. Using data from 634 teachers across 120 schools in rural China, we find an alarmingly high prevalence of teacher job dissatisfaction: roughly 21% of rural teachers were less than satisfied with their jobs. In addition, we find that several individual- and school-level characteristics, including being a male teacher, being a homeroom teacher, not having a management role in school, being a middle-aged teacher, and a school’s boarding status, are correlated with teacher job dissatisfaction. In sum, the results demonstrate a need for further research and policy interventions to improve teacher job satisfaction in rural schools.

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Journal Articles

Ordeal Mechanisms, Information, and the Cost-Effectiveness of Strategies to Provide Subsidized Eyeglasses

Sean Sylvia, Xiaochen Ma, Yaojiang Shi, Scott Rozelle
Science Direct, 2022 February 28, 2022

The cost-effectiveness of policies providing subsidized health goods is often compromised by limited use of the goods provided. Through a randomized trial involving 251 primary schools in western China, we tested two approaches to improve the cost-effectiveness of a program distributing free eyeglasses to myopic children. Relative to delivery of free eyeglasses to schools, we find that providing vouchers redeemable in local optical shops modestly improved the targeting of eyeglasses to those who would use them without reducing effective coverage. Information provided through a health education campaign increased eyeglass use when eyeglasses were delivered to schools, but had no effect when requiring voucher redemption or when families were only given a prescription for eyeglasses to be purchased on the market. Though most expensive, free delivery to schools with a health education campaign was the most socially cost-effective approach tested and increased effective coverage of eyeglasses by 18.5 percentage points after seven months.

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Journal Articles

Gender Equity in Vision Care Seeking Behavior Among Caregivers: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural China

Huan Wang, Claire Cousineau , Yingjie Fan, Sarah-Eve Dill, Matthew Boswell, Scott Rozelle, Xiaochen Ma
International Journal for Equity in Health, 2022 February 19, 2022

Background

Despite rising incomes and rapid economic growth, there remains a significant gender gap in health outcomes among rural children in China. This study examines whether the gender gap in child health is related to the behavior of caregivers when seeking healthcare, and whether healthcare subsidies help to bridge the gender gap in rural health outcomes.

Methods

Focusing on vision care specifically, we draw on data from a randomized controlled trial of 13,100 children in Gansu and Shaanxi provinces in China that provided subsidized eyeglasses to myopic children in one set of schools (henceforth, referred to as the treatment schools) and provided prescription information but not subsidized eyeglasses to myopic children in another set of schools (control schools).

Results

The baseline results reveal that while female students generally have worse vision than male students, they are significantly less likely than male students to be taken by their caregivers to a vision exam. The experimental results indicate, however, that caregivers respond positively to both health information and subsidized healthcare, regardless of the gender of their children. When prescription information is paired with a subsidy voucher for healthcare (a free pair of eyeglasses), the uptake rate rises dramatically.

Conclusions

The gender gap in healthcare can be minimized by implementing subsidized healthcare policies.

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Journal Articles

The Impact of Nonboarding on the Development of Disadvantaged Boarding Students in Western Rural China

Xiyuan Jia, Xinwu Zhang, Jiangchao Jing, Ming Zhou, Haoyang Li, Dimitris Friesen, Yue Ma
2022 January 30, 2022

Rural China has seen an increase in its migrant workers returning home. As a result, many of these workers’ children, who had previously boarded at school, needed to return home as well. While the existing research indicates that boarding affects the development of disadvantaged children, the effect of the switch to nonboarding on the growth of vulnerable boarding children remains unknown. Using two-stage data from 20,594 fourth- and fifth-grade students in rural Shaanxi and Gansu provinces as well as the difference-in-differences method, this study estimates the impact of switching to nonboarding on the academic performance and mental health of vulnerable boarding students. The results suggest that the shift toward nonboarding significantly reduces boarding students’ academic performance, and further testing shows that these results are robust. Additionally, the switch to nonboarding insignificantly increased the standardized mental health scores of rural primary school students but significantly increased their standardized impulsive tendency scores. Heterogeneity analysis found that boarding students whose mothers had lower educational achievement or whose families belonged to lower economic levels had poorer academic performance after switching, while boarding students whose parents had higher education achievement or myopia possessed better mental health after switching. This study offers novel, policy-relevant insights into potential strategies that would improve the academic performance and mental health of students who transition to nonboarding, especially those with low-educated parents and those belonging to poor families.

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Journal Articles

Factors Associated with the Spectacle Wear Compliance among Primary School Students with Refractive Error in Rural China

Kang Du, Jiaqi Zhu, Hongyu Guan, Yunyun Zhang, Huan Wang, Decai Wang, Yaojiang Shi
Ophthalmic Epidemiology, 2022 January 18, 2022

Purpose

To study the factors determining spectacle-wear compliance and reasons for non-wear among students in rural China.

Methods

This study was based on a spectacle intervention trial among 162 schools in rural China. Students with refractive errors were randomly assigned to either a free or voucher group to receive spectacles at baseline. Spectacle-wear compliance was assessed through an unannounced follow-up 7 months after spectacles were distributed. Students not wearing spectacles were also asked their reasons for non-wear. The collected data underwent descriptive, bivariate, and logistic regression analyses.

Results

A total of 1904 students received spectacles at baseline, 1826 (95.9%) of whom were present at the 7-month follow-up. Among those students, 41.7% wore their spectacles. There was no significant difference in compliance rates between the free and voucher groups. Predictors of wearing spectacles at follow-up included older age (Odds ratio = 1.56, 95% CI: 1.12–2.19), the severity of refractive error (3.68, 2.23–6.07), wearing spectacles before baseline (3.91, 2.53–6.04) and having friends who wore spectacles (1.87, 1.32–2.63). When students could see the blackboard from their seats (0.68, 0.51–0.89) and thought that wearing spectacles was bad looking (0.76, 0.57–1.00), they were reluctant to wear spectacles. The two main reasons for non-wear were the widespread perception that wearing spectacles would weaken eyesight (32.8%) and the inconvenience of wearing spectacles during activities (23.6%).

Conclusions

The main reason that accounts for the low compliance of spectacle wear was misconceptions around spectacle. School-based spectacle programs should consider enhancing the compliance rates to maximize the benefits of spectacle wear.

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Working Papers

Parental Investment, School Choice, and the Persistent Benefits of Intervention in Early Childhood

Lei Wang, Yiwei Qian, Nele Warrinnier, Orazio Attanasio, Scott Rozelle, Sean Sylvia
2021 November 3, 2021

We present evidence from a randomized experiment testing the impacts of a six-month early childhood home-visiting program on child outcomes at school entry. Two and a half years after completion of the program, we find persistent effects on child working memory - a key skill of executive functioning that plays a central role in children's development of cognitive and socio-emotional skills. We also find that the program had persistent effects on parental time investments and preschool enrollment decisions. Children were enrolled earlier and in higher quality preschools, the latter reflecting a shift in preferences over preschool attributes toward quality. Our findings imply an important role for the availability of high-quality subsequent schooling in sustaining the impacts of early intervention programs.

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Journal Articles

Does Paternal Involvement Matter for Early Childhood Development in Rural China?

Lei Wang, Hui Li, Sarah-Eve Dill, Siqi Zhang, Scott Rozelle
Applied Developmental Science, 2021 October 28, 2021

Research in developed countries has found that paternal involvement has positive and significant effects on early childhood development (ECD). Less is known, however, about the state of paternal involvement and its influence on ECD in rural China. Using data collected in Southern China that included 1,460 children aged 6–42 months and their fathers (as well as their primary caregivers), this study examines the association between paternal involvement and ECD. Although the results demonstrate that the average level of paternal involvement is low in rural China, paternal involvement is related to a significant increase in three domains of ECD (cognition, language, and social-emotional skills). Older children benefit significantly more than do younger children from paternal involvement in all domains of ECD. The results also show that, if the mother is the primary caregiver, the mother’s higher educational level and the family’s higher socioeconomic status are positively associated with paternal involvement.

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Journal Articles

Passive Versus Active Service Delivery: Comparing the Effects of Two Parenting Interventions on Early Cognitive Development in Rural China

Sean Sylvia, Renfu Luo, Jingdong Zhong, Sarah-Eve Dill, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
World Development, 2021 September 9, 2021

We present the results of a cluster-randomized controlled trial that evaluates the effects of a free, center-based parenting intervention on early cognitive development and parenting practices in 100 rural villages in China. We then compare these effects to a previous trial of a home-based intervention conducted in the same region, using the same parenting curriculum and public service system, accounting for potential differences between the studies. We find that the center-based intervention did not have a significant impact on child development outcomes, but did lead to increases in the material investments, time investments, and parenting skills of caregivers. The average impact of the center-based intervention on child skills and investments in children was significantly smaller than the home-visiting intervention. Analysis of the possible mechanisms suggests that the difference in effects was driven primarily by different patterns of selection into program participation.

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Case Studies

Bringing Evidence-Based Policy Change to Rural China

Tianli Feng
Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2021 September 1, 2021
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Journal Articles

The Prevalence and Correlates of Vision Impairment and Glasses Ownership among Ethnic Minority and Han Schoolchildren in Rural China

Huan Wang, Brandon Barket, Sharon Du, Dimitris Friesen, Ezra Kohrman, Esther Tok, Baixiang Xiao, Wenyong Huang, Ving Fai Chan, Graeme MacKenzie, Nathan Congdon
PLOS ONE, 2021 August 30, 2021

Purpose: To determine the prevalence of visual impairment and glasses ownership among Han Chinese and Hui minority junior high school children in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China. 

Design: Population-based cross-sectional study. 

Methods: Vision screening was conducted on 20,376 children (age 12–15 years) in all 124 rural junior high schools in Ningxia. Personal and family characteristics, glasses ownership, and academic performance were assessed through a survey questionnaire and standardized mathematics test, respectively. 

Results: The prevalence of visual acuity (VA) ≤6/12 in either eye was significantly higher among Han (54.5%) than Hui (45.2%) children (P<0.001), and was significantly positively associated with age, female sex, Han ethnicity, parental outmigration for work, shorter time spent outside during recess, shorter time spent watching television and higher time spent studying. Among children with VA≤6/12 in both eyes, only 56.8% of Han and 41.5% of Hui children had glasses (P<0.001). Glasses ownership was significantly associated with worse vision, greater family wealth, female sex, higher test scores, age, parental outmigration for work, understanding of myopia and glasses, higher time spent studying and Han ethnicity. 

Conclusion: One of the first of its kind, this report on Han and Hui ethnic schoolchildren confirms a high prevalence of visual impairment among both populations, but slightly higher among the Han. Both groups, especially the Hui, have low rates of glasses ownership. Future interventions and policies designed to improve glasses usage should focus on populations with lower incomes and seek to correct erroneous beliefs about the safety of glasses and efficacy of traditional eye exercises.

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Journal Articles

Early Childhood Development and Parental Training Interventions in Rural China: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Dorien Emmers, Qi Jiang, Hao Xue, Yue Zhang, Yunting Zhang, Yingxue Zhao, Bin Liu, Sarah-Eve Dill, Yiwei Qian, Nele Warrinnier, Hannah Johnstone, Jianhua Cai, Xiaoli Wang, Lei Wang, Renfu Luo, Guirong Li, Jiajia Xu, Ming Liu, Yaqing Huang, Wenjie Shan, Zhihui Li, Yu Zhang, Sean Sylvia, Yue Ma, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMJ Global Health, 2021 August 20, 2021

Introduction: Inadequate care during early childhood can lead to long-term deficits in skills. Parenting programmes that encourage investment in young children are a promising tool for improving early development outcomes and long-term opportunities in low-income and middle-income regions, such as rural China.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review and a meta-analysis to investigate the prevalence of early developmental delays and stimulating parenting practices as well as the effect of parental training programmes on child development outcomes in rural China. We obtained data in English from EconPapers, PubMed, PsycARTICLES, Cochrane Library, Web of Science and Scopus (Elsevier) and in Chinese from China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Wanfang Data and VIP Information. We conducted frequentist meta-analyses of aggregate data and estimated random-effects meta-regressions. Certainty of evidence was rated according to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach.

Results: We identified 19 observational studies on the prevalence of developmental delays and stimulating parenting practices for children under 5 years of age (n=19 762) and ten studies on the impact of parental training programmes on early child development (n=13 766). Children’s risk of cognitive, language and social-emotional delays in the rural study sites (covering 14 provinces mostly in Central and Western China) was 45%, 46%, and 36%, respectively. Parental training programmes had a positive impact on child cognition, language and social-emotional development.

Conclusion: There is evidence to suggest that early developmental delay and the absence of stimulating parenting practices (ie, reading, storytelling and singing with children) may be prevalent across rural, low-income and middle-income regions in Central and Western China. Results support the effectiveness of parental training programmes to improve early development by encouraging parental engagement.

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Journal Articles

Consultation Length, Process Quality and Diagnosis Quality of Primary Care in Rural China: A Cross-Sectional Standardized Patient Study

Qingzhi Wang, Sasmita Adhikari, Yuju Wu, Thankam Sunil, Yuping Mao, Ruixue Ye, Chang Sun, Yaojiang Shi, Chengchao Zhou, Sean Sylvia, Scott Rozelle, Huan Zhou
Patient Education and Counseling, 2021 August 8, 2021

Objective: Consultation length, the time spent between patient and health care provider during a visit, is an essential element in measuring quality of health care patients receive from a primary care facility. However, the linkage between consultation length and process quality and diagnosis quality of primary care is still uncertain. This study aims to examine the role consultation length plays in delivering process quality and diagnosis quality, two central components of overall primary care quality, in rural China.

Methods: We recruited unannounced standardized patients (SPs) to present classic symptoms of angina and tuberculosis in selected healthcare facilities in three provinces of China. The consultation length and primary care quality of SPs were measured and compared with both international and national standards of care. Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regressions for process quality (continuous dependent variable) and Logistic regressions for diagnosis quality (binary dependent variable) were performed to investigate the relationship between consultation length and primary care quality.

Results: The average consultation lengths among patients with classic symptoms of angina and those with symptoms of tuberculosis were approximately 4.33 min and 6.28 min, respectively. Providers who spent more time with patients were significantly more likely to complete higher percentage of recommended checklist items of both questions and examinations for angina (β = 1.39, 95%CI 1.01–1.78) and tuberculosis (β = 0.89, 95%CI 0.69–1.08). Further, providers who spent more time with patients were more likely to make correct diagnosis for angina (marginal effect = 0.014, 95%CI 0.002–0.026) and for tuberculosis (marginal effect = 0.013, 95%CI 0.005–0.021).

Conclusions: The average consultation length is extremely short among primary care providers in rural China. The longer consultation leads to both better process and diagnosis quality of primary care.

Practice Implications: We recommend primary care providers to increase the length of their communication with patients. To do so, government should implement healthcare reforms to clarify the requirements of affordable and reliable consultation length in medical care services. Moreover, such an experience can also be extended to other developing countries.

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Journal Articles

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) among Elementary Students in Rural China: Prevalence, Correlates, and Consequence

Xiaodong Pang, Huan Wang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Matthew Boswell, Xiaopeng Pang, Manpreet Singh, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Affective Disorders, 2021 June 18, 2021

Background: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a widely recognized mental health problem in developed countries but remains under-investigated in developing settings. This study examines the prevalence, correlates, and consequences of ADHD symptoms among elementary school students in rural China.

Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected from 6,719 students across 120 rural primary schools in China on ADHD symptoms, demographic characteristics, and academic performance in reading and math. ADHD symptoms were evaluated using the caregiver-reported ADHD Rating Scale-IV.

Results: The prevalence of ADHD symptoms was 7.5% in our sample. Male students, students in lower grade levels, and students with lower cognitive ability showed a significantly higher prevalence of ADHD symptoms (ORs = 2.56, 2.06, and 1.84, respectively; p<0.05). Left-behind children showed a significantly lower prevalence of ADHD symptoms than did children who were living with their parents (OR = 0.74, p < 0.05). Adjusted regressions show that students with ADHD symptoms scored 0.12 standardized deviations lower in reading (p < 0.05) and 0.19 standardized deviations lower in math (p < 0.01).

Limitations: The ADHD Rating Scale-IV is a screening scale rather than a diagnostic test. Caregiver self-report measures also may underestimate ADHD symptoms for our sample.

Conclusions: ADHD is a common disorder among rural students in China and appears to be contributing to poor academic outcomes. The higher prevalence of ADHD among students with low cognitive ability also suggests that many rural children in China face multifactorial learning challenges. Taken together, the findings indicate a need for educators and policymakers in rural China to develop programs to reduce risk and support students with ADHD symptoms.

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Journal Articles

Complicating China’s Rise: Rural Underemployment

Scott Rozelle, Matthew Boswell
The Washington Quarterly, 2021 June 17, 2021

China’s economy has doubled in size every eight years since 1979, making it over 32 times bigger now then it was then and the second largest in the world today.1 Four decades of growth have ushered more than 400 million people in China into the global middle class.2 According to the World Bank, China is currently an upper middle-income country. The country is the only major economy on earth to report growth in 2020 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.3 What are the prospects for China to continue its spectacular economic rise and become a high-income country? In this article, we aim to draw attention to an underappreciated factor that we believe may complicate China’s continued economic ascent: hundreds of millions of poorly educated, increasingly underemployed workers hailing from China’s rural hinterland.

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Journal Articles

Special Issue: Agriculture, the Rural Economy and China's Growth in the 21st Century: Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of AAEA China Section

Scott Rozelle, Yuqing Zheng, Chengfang Liu
China Agricultural Economic Review, 2021 June 1, 2021

Scott Rozelle, Yuqing Zheng, and Chengfang Liu were the guest editors of this special issue on agriculture, the rural economy and China's growth in the 21st century. Scott Rozelle also authored a publication in this issue.

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Journal Articles

Infant Cognitive Development and Stimulating Parenting Practices in Rural China

Hannah Johnstone, Yi Yang, Hao Xue, Scott Rozelle
Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021 May 15, 2021

This study examines the prevalence of cognitive delay among infants and toddlers in rural China and its relationship with one of the potential sources of the observed delay: low levels of stimulating parenting practices (SPPs). Data were compiled from five distinct studies, resulting in a pooled sample of 4436 caregivers of 6–29-month-old infants. The sampling sites span five provinces in rural China. According to the data, on average, rates of delay are high—51 percent. The low rates of SPPs among our sample demonstrate that this may be one source of the high prevalence of delays. The results of the multivariate regression analysis reveal that reading books and singing songs are each significantly associated with an increase in infant cognitive score by 1.62 points (p = 0.003) and 2.00 points (p < 0.001), respectively. Telling stories to infants, however, is not significantly associated with infant cognitive scores. Our findings indicate that caregivers with different characteristics engage in various levels of stimulating practices and have infants with different rates of delay. Specifically, infants of better-educated mothers who have greater household assets are in families in which the caregivers provide more SPPs and have infants who score higher on the study’s cognitive abilities scales.

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Journal Articles

Health, Economic, and Social Implications of COVID-19 for China's Rural Population

Huan Wang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Huan Zhou, Yue Ma, Hao Xue, Sean Sylvia, Kumi Smith, Matthew Boswell, Alexis Medina, Prashant Loyalka, Cody Abbey, Dimitris Friesen, Nathan Rose, Yian Guo, Scott Rozelle
Agricultural Economics, 2021 May 11, 2021

This study examines the effects of local and nationwide COVID‐19 disease control measures on the health and economy of China's rural population. We conducted phone surveys with 726 randomly selected village informants across seven rural Chinese provinces in February 2020. Four villages (0.55%) reported infections, and none reported deaths. Disease control measures had been universally implemented in all sample villages. About 74% of informants reported that villagers with wage‐earning jobs outside the village had stopped working due to workplace closures. A higher percentage of rural individuals could not work due to transportation, housing, and other constraints. Local governments had taken measures to reduce the impact of COVID‐19. Although schools in all surveyed villages were closed, 71% of village informants reported that students were attending classes online. Overall, measures to control COVID‐19 appear to have been successful in limiting disease transmission in rural communities outside the main epidemic area. Rural Chinese citizens, however, have experienced significant economic consequences from the disease control measures.

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Journal Articles

Comparing the Quality of Primary Care between Public and Private Providers in Urban China: A Standardized Patient Study

Min Su, Zhongliang Zhou, Yafei Si, Sean Sylvia, Gang Chen, Yanfang Su, Scott Rozelle, Xiaolin Wei
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021 May 11, 2021

Previous studies have been limited by not directly comparing the quality of public and private CHCs using a standardized patient method (SP). This study aims to evaluate and compare the quality of the primary care provided by public and private CHCs using a standardized patient method in urban China. We recruited 12 standardized patients from the local community presenting fixed cases (unstable angina and asthma), including 492 interactions between physicians and standardized patients across 63 CHCs in Xi’an, China. We measured the quality of primary care on seven criteria: (1) adherence to checklists, (2) correct diagnosis, (3) correct treatment, (4) number of unnecessary exams and drugs, (5) diagnosis time, (6) expense of visit, (7) patient-centered communication. Significant quality differences were observed between public CHCs and private CHCs. Private CHC physicians performed 4.73 percentage points lower of recommended questions and exams in the checklist. Compared with private CHCs, public CHC providers were more likely to give a higher proportion of correct diagnosis and correct treatment. Private CHCs provided 1.42 fewer items of unnecessary exams and provided 0.32 more items of unnecessary drugs. Private CHC physicians received a 9.31 lower score in patient-centered communication. There is significant quality inequality in different primary care models. Public CHC physicians might provide a higher quality of service. Creating a comprehensive, flexible, and integrated health care system should be considered an effective approach towards optimizing the management of CHC models.

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Journal Articles

Trajectories of Child Cognitive Development During Ages 0-3 in Rural Western China: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Links to Preschool-Age Cognition

Lei Wang, Yifei Chen, Sean Sylvia, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
BMC Pediatrics, 2021 April 26, 2021

Background:
Cognitive development after age three tends to be stable and can therefore predict cognitive skills in later childhood. However, there is evidence that cognitive development is less stable before age three. In rural China, research has found large shares of children under age three are developmentally delayed, yet little is known about the trajectories of cognitive development between 0 and 3 years of age or how developmental trajectories predict later cognitive skills. This study seeks to describe the trajectories of child cognitive development between the ages of 0–3 years and examine how different trajectories predict cognitive development at preschool age.

Methods:
We collected three waves of longitudinal panel data from 1245 children in rural Western China. Child cognitive development was measured by the Bayley Scales of Infant Development when the child was 6–12 months and 22–30 months, and by the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Fourth Edition when the child was 49–65 months. We used the two measures of cognitive development before age three to determine the trajectories of child cognitive development.

Results:
Of the children, 39% were never cognitively delayed; 13% were persistently delayed; 7% experienced improving cognitive development; and 41% experienced deteriorating development before age 3. Compared to children who had never experienced cognitive delay, children with persistent cognitive delay and those with deteriorating development before age 3 had significantly lower cognitive scores at preschool age. Children with improving development before age 3 showed similar levels of cognition at preschool age as children who had never experienced cognitive delay.

Conclusions:
Large shares of children under age 3 in rural Western China show deteriorating cognitive development from infancy to toddlerhood, which predict lower levels of cognition at preschool age. Policymakers should invest in improving cognitive development before age 3 to prevent long-term poor cognition among China’s rural children.

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Journal Articles

Effects of Vision Health Education and Free Eyeglasses on Knowledge of Vision and Usage of Spectacles Among Primary School Students: Evidence from Gansu and Shaanxi Provinces in China

Yunyun Zhang, Hongyu Guan, Kang Du, Jin Zhao, Yaojiang Shi, Huan Wang, Decai Wang
Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, 2021 April 9, 2021

Background

In rural China, children’s vision problems are very common, with many who would benefit from refractive correction not getting the care they need. This study examines whether a health information campaign that involves vision health education and a free trial of health product with free eyeglasses is effective at raising students’ awareness of myopia and promoting students’ eyeglasses usage.

Methods

We conducted an in-the-field randomized controlled experiment of a program providing vision health education and subsidized free eyeglasses to myopic children from 168 primary schools in rural Northwestern China in 2012.

Results

A total of 2189 students, mean age 10.5 years (49.3% male), participated in the baseline survey. At the baseline, the average correct response rate for visual knowledge among the sample students was 30.1%, and only 15% who needed eyeglasses used them. Seven months after intervention, the average correct response rate for vision knowledge were 48.5% and 48.3% in the education group and the education plus free eyeglasses group respectively, significantly higher than that of the control group. The rate of eyeglasses usage was 36% and 43% in the free eyeglasses group and the education plus free eyeglasses group respectively, significantly higher than that of the control group. The rate of eyeglasses compliance in the free eyeglasses group and the education plus free eyeglasses group was 19% and 26%, which also were significantly higher than the control group.

Conclusion

The information campaign combined with subsidized eyeglasses had a better effect both on vision knowledge and eyeglasses usage. The information campaign improved knowledge by providing the right information, and free eyeglasses changed the perceived utility and experience by the students using the product and getting benefits. Information and the free eyeglasses (subsidized) are complements.

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Journal Articles

Variations in the Home Language Environment and Early Language Development in Rural China

Yue Ma, Laura Jonsson, Tianli Feng, Tyler Weisberg, Teresa Shao, Zixin Yao, Dongming Zhang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Yian Guo, Yue Zhang, Dimitris Friesen, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021 March 6, 2021

The home language environment is critical to early language development and subsequent skills. However, few studies have quantitatively measured the home language environment in low-income, developing settings. This study explores variations in the home language environment and child language skills among households in poor rural villages in northwestern China. Audio recordings were collected for 38 children aged 20–28 months and analyzed using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) software; language skills were measured using the MacArthur–Bates Mandarin Communicative Developmental Inventories expressive vocabulary scale. The results revealed large variability in both child language skills and home language environment measures (adult words, conversational turns, and child vocalizations) with 5- to 6-fold differences between the highest and lowest scores. Despite variation, however, the average number of adult words and conversational turns were lower than found among urban Chinese children. Correlation analyses did not identify significant correlations between demographic characteristics and the home language environment. However, the results do indicate significant correlations between the home language environment and child language skills, with conversational turns showing the strongest correlation. The results point to a need for further research on language engagement and ways to increase parent–child interactions to improve early language development among young children in rural China.

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Journal Articles

Skill Levels and Gains in University STEM Education in China, India, Russia, and the United States

Prashant Loyalka, Ou Lydia Liu, Guirong Li, Elena Kardanova, Igor Chirikov, Shangfeng Hu, Ningning Yu, Liping Ma, Fei Guo, Tara Beteille, Namrata Tognatta, Lin Gu, Guangming Ling, Denis Federiakin, Huan Wang, Saurabh Khanna, Ashutosh Bhuradia, Zhaolei Shi, Yanyan Li
Nature Human Behavior, 2021 March 1, 2021

Universities contribute to economic growth and national competitiveness by equipping students with higher-order thinking and academic skills. Despite large investments in university science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, little is known about how the skills of STEM undergraduates compare across countries and by institutional selectivity. Here, we provide direct evidence on these issues by collecting and analysing longitudinal data on tens of thousands of computer science and electrical engineering students in China, India, Russia and the United States. We find stark differences in skill levels and gains among countries and by institutional selectivity. Compared with the United States, students in China, India and Russia do not gain critical thinking skills over four years. Furthermore, while students in India and Russia gain academic skills during the first two years, students in China do not. These gaps in skill levels and gains provide insights into the global competitiveness of STEM university students across nations and institutional types.

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