Health

Doctor taking blood pressure and heart beat of patient.

Health

Working to bring quality health care to rural communities.

Overview

While China has recently made leaps in reforming its health system, major gaps still remain. Due to the sheer size of China’s population and economy, the success or failure of its healthcare system has outsized implications for global health and growth. Underlying issues in China’s health system range from a lack of resources, insufficient expertise, and misaligned incentives for providers. However, unlike many developing countries, China has the wherewithal to deploy novel approaches to improve healthcare outcomes. This unique combination of need and means makes China important for the study of health systems and care for underserved populations.

Featured Projects

doctor examining man

Standardized Patients

Standardized patients (SP) are people recruited from local communities and trained to act as “undercover patients” to evaluate clinicians. They are trained to present symptoms of disease while wearing a wire to assess clinician behavior. REAP has trained hundreds of standardized patients to evaluate the quality of health care in rural clinics.
REAP parenting sign

Community Health Workers

REAP’s community health workers program places trained, village-based health workers in rural communities to bring quality health care and support to the mothers of young children.
girls with glasses

Vision Care: Seeing is Learning

REAP has pioneered new understanding about the vital role of vision care as an educational input. Through multiple randomized controlled trials we found that a nearsighted child learns double if you give them a pair of glasses, but only one in seven rural children in China needing glasses actually has them.

Publications

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Journal Article

Publishing and Assessing the Research of Economists: Lessons from Public Health

Sean Sylvia, Scott Rozelle
China Economic Review , 2021
We highlight a growing concern in the economics profession that young scholars face incentives that are misaligned with conducting research that furthers knowledge and addresses pressing policy problems. The premium given to publication in top journals leads to an emphasis on exhaustive treatment of narrow questions. Detailed, robustly identified studies of novel questions are of undeniable value; however, the opportunity cost of producing such studies is large in terms of research quantity and policy relevance. For economists who aim to achieve what we view as the ultimate goals of academic research (enhancing understanding of the world, solving social problems, and building foundational knowledge to enable future breakthroughs), we offer some insights from publication philosophy in the field of public health. We discuss how public health has developed norms around publishing that are more successful in meeting these ultimate goals. We then offer thoughts on potential lessons for young economists in China and the economics discipline.
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Policy Brief

Tracking China's Economic Path

Hongbin Li, Scott Rozelle
2021
Stanford scholars are setting and expanding research agendas to analyze China’s economic development and its impact on the world. The newly launched Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions — co-directed by SIEPR senior fellows Hongbin Li and Scott Rozelle — is supporting their work. In this SIEPR Policy Brief, Li and Rozelle outline the research underway by the new center's affiliates.
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Journal Article

Improving Learning by Improving Vision: Evidence from Two Randomized Controlled Trials of Providing Vision Care in China

Xiaochen Ma, Huan Wang, Yaojiang Shi, Sean Sylvia, Lei Wang, Yiwei Qian, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Development Effectiveness , 2021
This paper examines the external validity of health intervention by comparing the impacts of providing free eyeglasses on the educational performance of nearsighted children in two settings: rural public schools in Western China and urban private migrant schools in Eastern China. The intervention significantly improves educational outcomes by 0.14 standard deviations in math in rural public schools but not in private migrant schools. The difference in measured impacts is due in part to lower quality schooling in migrant schools in Eastern China. Our findings show that only when school is providing a quality education, health interventions might increase student learnings.
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Journal Article

Tracking the Effects of COVID-19 in Rural China Over Time

Huan Wang, Markus Zhang, Robin Li, Oliver Zhong, Hannah Johnstone, Huan Zhou, Hao Xue, Sean Sylvia, Matthew Boswell, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
International Journal for Equity in Health , 2021
Background: China issued strict nationwide guidelines to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020 and gradually loosened the restrictions on movement in early March. Little is known about how these disease control measures affected the 600 million people who live in rural China. The goal of this paper is to document the quarantine measures implemented in rural China outside the epicenter of Hubei Province and to assess the socioeconomic effect of the measures on rural communities over time. Methods: We conducted three rounds of interviews with informants from 726 villages in seven provinces, accounting for over 25% of China’s overall rural population. The survey collected data on rural quarantine implementation; COVID-19 infections and deaths in the survey villages; and effects of the quarantine on employment, income, education, health care, and government policies to address any negative impacts. The empirical findings of the work established that strict quarantine measures were implemented in rural villages throughout China in February. Results: There was little spread of COVID-19 in rural communities: an infection rate of 0.001% and zero deaths reported in our sample. However, there were negative social and economic outcomes, including high rates of unemployment, falling household income, rising prices, and disrupted student learning. Health care was generally accessible, but many delayed their non-COVID-19 health care due to the quarantine measures. Only 20% of villagers received any form of local government aid, and only 11% of villages received financial subsidies. There were no reports of national government aid programs that targeted rural villagers in the sample areas. Conclusions: By examining the economic and social effects of the COVID-19 restrictions in rural communities, this study will help to guide other middle- and low-income countries in their containment and restorative processes. Without consideration for economically vulnerable populations, economic hardships and poverty will likely continue to have a negative impact on the most susceptible communities.
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Journal Article

Maternal Health Behaviors During Pregnancy in Rural Northwestern China

Yue Ma, Yujuan Gao, Jason Li, Andrew Sun, Baozhu Wang, Jun Zhang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth , 2020
Background: Maternal health during pregnancy is a key input in fetal health and child development. This study aims to systematically describe the health behaviors of pregnant women in rural China and identify which subgroups of women are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors during pregnancy.
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Journal Article

Effects of Baby-Friendly Practices on Breastfeeding Duration in China: A Case-Control Study

Yue Zhang, Jinliuxing Yang, Wenhao Li, Nianrong Wang, Ya Ye, Shuangqin Yan, Sumei Wang, Ting Zeng, Zijuan Huang, Fenghua Zhang, Yin Li, Shiyi Yao, Haijun Wang, Scott Rozelle, Tao Xu, Xi Jin
International Breastfeeding Journal , 2020
Background:  The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is generally considered an effective way to promote breastfeeding. Although China has the largest number of baby-friendly hospitals in the world, research on baby-friendly practices in China is limited, and the rate of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) at 6 months, 20.7%, compared to the 2025 global goal of 50% is low. It is, therefore, important to determine the factors that remain significant barriers to EBF in China. To explore how the key baby-friendly practices affect EBF duration in China, we used a case-control study to compare the effects of baby-friendly-related practices on both EBF and non-breastfeeding (NBF) mothers at 3 months and to investigate the effects of both single and comprehensive baby-friendly practices in promoting EBF duration at 3 months, which is one step toward EBF at 6 months. Methods:  Participants were recruited from four maternal and child health hospitals in western (Chongqing), eastern (Qingdao), southern (Liuzhou), and central China (Maanshan). A total of 421 mothers (245 in the EBF group, 176 in the NBF group) of infants aged 3 months were surveyed through a self-reported questionnaire from April 2018 to March 2019. The experience of baby-friendly practices and breastfeeding during hospitalization were assessed with yes/no questions. Socio-demographic factors that influenced breastfeeding at 3 months were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses. Results:  Of mothers in the EBF group, 65.57% reported engaging in at least seven baby-friendly practices compared to 47.72% of mothers in the NBF group. Significantly more mothers in the EBF group engaged in baby-friendly practices than in the NBF group. These practices included “breastfeeding within one hour after birth” (74.29% vs. 59.09%), “breastfeeding on demand” (86.48% vs. 75.00%), and “never use a pacifier” (46.53% vs. 31.25%). After adjusting for confounding variables, we found that the mothers who engaged in fewer than seven baby-friendly practices were about 1.7 times less likely to breastfeed than were those who engaged in seven or more baby-friendly practices (odds ratio [OR] 1.720, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.106, 2.667). Further, the mothers who did not breastfeed on demand were as likely to not breastfeed up to 3 months (OR 2.263, 95% CI 1.265, 4.049), as were mothers who did not breastfeed during hospitalization (OR 4.379, 95% CI 1.815, 10.563). Conclusions:  These data from hospitals in China suggest that higher compliance with baby-friendly practices may have a positive impact on EBF at 3 months, particularly in terms of promoting the implementation of breastfeeding on demand and breastfeeding during hospitalization in China.
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Working Paper

Off the Epicenter: COVID-19 Quarantine Controls and Employment, Education, and Health Impacts in Rural Communities

Huan Wang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Huan Zhou, Yue Ma, Hao Xue, Prashant Loyalka, Sean Sylvia, Matthew Boswell, Jason Lin, Scott Rozelle
2020

In late January 2020, China’s government initiated its first aggressive measures to combat COVID-19 by forbidding individuals from leaving their homes, radically limiting public transportation, cancelling or postponing large public events, and closing schools across the country. The rollout of these measures coincided with China’s Lunar New Year holiday, during which more than 280 million people had returned from their places of work to their home villages in rural areas. The disease control policies remained in place until late February and early March, when they were gradually loosened to

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Journal Article

Conditional Cash Transfers, Uptake of Maternal and Child Health Services, and Health Outcomes in Western Rural China

Huan Zhou, Yuju Wu, Chengfang Liu, Chang Sun, Yaojiang Shi, Linxiu Zhang, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMC Public Health , 2020
Background: Empirical evidence suggests that the uptake of maternal and child health (MCH) services is still low in poor rural areas of China. There is concern that this low uptake may detrimentally affect child health outcomes. Previous studies have not yet identified the exact nature of the impact that a conditional cash transfer (CCT) has on the uptake of MCH services and, ultimately, on child health outcomes. The objective of this study is to examine the relationship between CCT, uptake of MCH services, and health outcomes among children in poor rural areas of western China. Methods: We designated two different sets of villages and households that were used as comparisons against which outcomes of the treated households could be assessed. In 2014, we conducted a large-scale survey of 1522 households in 75 villages (including 25 treatment and 50 comparison) from nine nationally designated poverty counties in two provinces of China. In each village, 21 households were selected based on their eligibility status for the CCT program. Difference-in-difference analyses were used to assess the impact of CCT on outcomes in terms of both intention-to-treat (ITT) and average-treatment-effects-on-the-treated (ATT). Results: Overall, the uptake of MCH services in the sample households were low, especially in terms of postpartum care visits, early breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, and physical examination of the baby. The uptake of the seven types of MCH services in the CCT treatment villages were significantly higher than that in the comparison villages. The results from both the ITT and ATT analyses showed that the CCT program had a positive, although small, impact on the uptake of MCH services and the knowledge of mothers of MCH health issues. Nonetheless, the CCT program had no noticeable effect on child health outcomes. Conclusions: The CCT program generated modest improvements in the uptake of MCH services and mothers’ knowledge of MCH services in poor rural areas of Western China. These improvements, however, did not translate into substantial improvements in child health outcomes for two potential reasons: poor CCT implementation and the low quality of rural health facilities.
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Journal Article

Depressive Symptoms and the Link with Academic Performance among Rural Taiwanese Children

Yujuan Gao, Derek Hu, Evan Peng, Cody Abbey, Yue Ma, Chyi-In Wu, Chia-Yuan Chang, Wei-Ting Hung, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2020
Previous studies reflect a high prevalence of depressive symptoms among Taiwanese adolescents (ages 13–18), but there is an absence of literature related to the risk of depression of children in Taiwan (ages 6–12), particularly among potentially vulnerable subgroups. To provide insight into the distribution of depressive symptoms among children in rural Taiwan and measure the correlation between academic performance, we conducted a survey of 1655 randomly selected fourth and fifth-grade students at 92 sample schools in four relatively low-income counties or municipalities. Using the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D) we assessed the prevalence of depressive symptoms in this sample, in addition to collecting other data, such as performance on a standardized math test as well as information on a number of individual and household characteristics. We demonstrate that the share of children with clinically significant symptoms is high: 38% of the students were at risk of general depression (depression score ≥ 16) and 8% of the students were at risk of major depression (depression score > 28). The results of the multivariate regression and heterogeneous analysis suggest that poor academic performance is closely associated with a high prevalence of depressive symptoms. Among low-performing students, certain groups were disproportionately affected, including girls and students whose parents have migrated away for work. Results also suggest that, overall, students who had a parent who was an immigrant from another country were at greater risk of depression. These findings highlight the need for greater resource allocation toward mental health services for elementary school students in rural Taiwan, particularly for at-risk groups. 
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Journal Article

Using Standardised Patients to Assess the Quality of Medical Records: An Application and Evidence from Rural China

Yuju Wu, Huan Zhou, Yaojiang Shi, Hao Xue, Chengchao Zhou, Hongmei Yi, Alexis Medina, Jason Li, Sean Sylvia
BMJ , 2019
Background: Medical records play a fundamental role in healthcare delivery, quality assessment and improvement. However, there is little objective evidence on the quality of medical records in low and middle-income countries. Objective: To provide an unbiased assessment of the quality of medical records for outpatient visits to rural facilities in China. Methods: A sample of 207 township health facilities across three provinces of China were enrolled. Unannounced standardised patients (SPs) presented to providers following standardised scripts. Three weeks later, investigators returned to collect medical records from each facility. Audio recordings of clinical interactions were then used to evaluate completeness and accuracy of available medical records. Results: Medical records were located for 210 out of 620 SP visits (33.8%). Of those located, more than 80% contained basic patient information and drug treatment when mentioned in visits, but only 57.6% recorded diagnoses. The most incompletely recorded category of information was patient symptoms (74.3% unrecorded), followed by non-drug treatments (65.2% unrecorded). Most of the recorded information was accurate, but accuracy fell below 80% for some items. The keeping of any medical records was positively correlated with the provider’s income (β 0.05, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.09). Providers at hospitals with prescription review were less likely to record completely (β −0.87, 95% CI −1.68 to 0.06). Significant variation by disease type was also found in keeping of any medical record and completeness. Conclusion: Despite the importance of medical records for health system functioning, many rural facilities have yet to implement systems for maintaining patient records, and records are often incomplete when they exist. Prescription review tied to performance evaluation should be implemented with caution as it may create disincentives for record keeping. Interventions to improve record keeping and management are needed. 
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Journal Article

Can School Feeding Programs Reduce Malnutrition in Rural China?

Huan Wang, Qiran Zhao, Matthew Boswell, Scott Rozelle
Journal of School Health , 2019
BACKGROUND
Childhood malnutrition is commonplace among poor rural communities in China. In 2012, China launched its first nationwide school‐feeding program (SFP) to address this problem. This study examines the prevalence of malnutrition before and after the SFP and identifies possible reasons for the trends observed.
 
METHODS
Ordinary least squares regression and propensity score matching were used to analyze data from 2 cross‐sectional surveys of 100 rural primary schools in northwestern China. Participants were fourth‐and fifth‐grade students. Outcome measures include anemia rates, hemoglobin levels, body mass index, and height for age Z scores.
 
RESULTS
Three years after implementation of the SFP, malnutrition rates among sample students had not fallen. The SFP had no statistically significant effect on either anemia rates or BMI, but was linked to an increase in the proportion of students with below normal height for age Z scores. Meals provided to students fell far short of national recommendations that the SPF should provide 40% of the recommended daily allowance of micronutrients.
 
CONCLUSIONS
Despite significant budgetary outlays between 2012 and 2015, China's SFP has not reduced the prevalence of malnutrition among sample students. To make the SFP more effective, funding and human resources both need to be increased.
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Journal Article

Academic Achievement and Mental Health of Left-behind Children in Rural China

Lei Wang, Yaojia Zheng, Guirong Li, Yanyan Li, Zhenni Fang, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
China Agricultural Economic Review , 2019
Purpose – China’s rapid pace of urbanization has resulted in millions of rural residents migrating from rural areas to urban areas for better job opportunities. Due to economic pressures and the nature of China’s demographic policies, many of these migrants have been forced to leave their children with relatives – typically paternal grandparents – at home in the countryside. Thus, while income for most migrant families has risen, a major unintended consequence of this labor movement has been the emergence of a potentially vulnerable sub-population of left-behind children (LBCs). The purpose of this paper is to examine the impacts of parental migration on both the academic performance and mental health of LBCs. Design/methodology/approach – Longitudinal data were drawn from three waves of a panel survey that . followed the same students and their families – including their migration behavior (i.e. whether both parents, one parent, no parent migrated) – between 2015 and 2016. The survey covers more than 33,000 students in one province of central China. The authors apply a student fixed-effects model that controls for both observable and unobservable confounding variables to explicate the causal effects of parental migration on the academic and mental health outcomes for LBC. The authors also employ these methods to test whether these effects differ by the type of migration or by gender of the child.
Findings – The authors found no overall impact of parental migration on either academic performance or mental health of LBCs, regardless of the type of migration behavior. The authors did find, however, that when the authors examined heterogeneous effects by gender (which was possible due to the large sample size), parental migration resulted in significantly higher anxiety levels for left-behind girls. The results suggest that parental migration affects left-behind boys and girls differently and that policymakers should take a more tailored approach to addressing the problems faced by LBCs.
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Journal Article

Heterogeneous Impacts of Basic Social Health Insurance on Medical Expenditure: Evidence from China's New Cooperative Medical Scheme

Conglong Fang, Chaofei He, Scott Rozelle, Qinghua Shi, Jiayin Sun, Ning Yu
Healthcare , 2019

This paper examines the effects of China’s New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS) on medical expenditure. Utilizing the quasi-random rollout of the NCMS for a difference-in-difference analysis, we find that the NCMS increased medical expenditure by 12.3%. Most significantly, the good-health group witnessed a 22.1% rise in medical expenditure, and the high-income group saw a rise of 20.6%. The effects, however, were not significant among the poor-health or low-income groups. The findings are suggestive of the need for more help for the very poor and less healthy.

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Journal Article

Dynamic Anemia Status from Infancy to Preschool-Age: Evidence from Rural China

Lei Wang, Mengjie Li, Sarah-Eve Dill, Yiwei Hu, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2019

Anemia is a serious nutritional deficiency among infants and toddlers in rural China. However, it is unclear how the anemia status changes among China’s rural children as they age. This study investigates the prevalence of anemia as children grow from infancy to preschool-age, as well as the dynamic anemia status of children over time. We conducted longitudinal surveys of 1170 children in the Qinba Mountain Area of China in 2013, 2015 and 2017. The results show that 51% of children were anemic in infancy (6–12 months), 24% in toddlerhood (22–30 months) and 19% at preschool-age (49–65 months). An even larger share of children (67%) suered from anemia at some point over the course of study. The data also show that although only 4% of children were persistently anemic from infancy to preschool-age, 8% of children saw their anemia status deteriorate. We further found that children may be at greater risk for developing anemia, or for having persistent anemia, during the period between toddlerhood and preschool-age. Combined with the finding that children with improving anemia status showed higher cognition than persistently anemic children, there is an urgent need for eective nutritional interventions to combat anemia as children grow, especially between toddlerhood and preschool age.

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Journal Article

Old is Not Always Better: Evidence from Five Randomized Experiments in Rural Primary Schools in China

Lili Li, Fang Chang, Yaojiang Shi, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Development Effectiveness , 2019

In recent years, researchers have begun to focus attention on trying to identify systematic factors that cause interventions to have different impacts in different contexts. In this paper, we seek to understand whether the age of principals at schools implementing nutrition-based interventions has an impact on program outcomes. To explore the relative effectiveness of younger and older school principals, we use data from five large-scale, nutrition-related randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving 12,595 primary school students in 336 schools in rural China. Our results, using two age cut-offs for distinguishing young principals from old ones, indicate that improvements in the health and nutrition outcomes of students were significantly higher in schools with younger principals than in schools run by older principals (when using a cutoff of 40 years old). When using a cut-off of 45 years old, the point estimates of the impacts similarly suggest that young principals are more effective, although the results are not significantly significant. The results are similar when we look at the impact of disaggregated interventions in schools managed by young and old principals. The findings are clear that the interventions implemented by older principals are not more effective than those implemented by younger principals.

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Journal Article

Use of maternal health services among women in the ethnic rural areas of western China

Yuju Wu, Huan Zhou, Qingzhi Wang, Min Cao, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMC Health Services Research , 2019
Background: The use of maternal health services can markedly promote the maternal health and safety, but there has been a low utilization rate in the ethnic rural areas of western China. Furthermore, the correlated factors have not been well studied. This study aims to assess factors related to the use of maternal health services among women in these areas.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of 68 villages in China’s western Sichuan province was conducted in September 2014. All qualifying women from each sample village were involved. A structured questionnaire was administrated in households through face-to-face interviews by trained enumerators to obtain information of use of maternal health services and related factors. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to evaluate the direct and indirect relationships between use of maternal health services and correlated factors.
Results: A total of 760 women from 68 villages were enrolled. The proportion of antenatal care (ANC), hospital delivery and postpartum visits were 68.94, 48.29 and 28.42% respectively. The SEM analysis demonstrated that social economic status (SES) (β= − 0.75, β< 0.01), ANC (β=0.13, β< 0.01), and time from home to the nearest hospital (β= − 0.09, β< 0.05), were positively correlated to hospital delivery and postpartum care visits, while maternal care knowledge and perceived quality of hospital care did not have direct correlation. For ANC, SES (β= − 0.36, β< 0.01), time from home to the nearest hospital (β= − 0.13, β< 0.05), knowledge on maternal care (β=0.12, β< 0.01) and perceived quality of hospital care (β=0.10, β< 0.01) were all directly correlated factors. Treating ANC as an intermediate variable showed the indirect relationship that perceived quality of hospital care (β=0.01, β< 0.01) and maternal care knowledge (β=0.02, β< 0.01) had with hospital delivery and postpartum care rates.
Conclusions: Use of maternal health services is low among women in ethnic rural areas. ANC has important direct and intermediate effects on subsequent use of hospital delivery and postpartum care. Improving ANC behavior should be a priority of maternal health care reforms. Given the long travel times for these women, reforms must also prioritize breaking down practical barriers that prevent this population from accessing care.
Keywords: Maternal health services, Antenatal care, Ethnic areas, Western China
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Journal Article

Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) of Cysticercosis in School-Aged Children in Tibetan Rural Farming Areas of Western China: Implications for Intervention Planning

Huan Zhou, Qingzhi Wang, Junmin Zhou, Tiaoying Li, Alexis Medina, Stephen Felt, Scott Rozelle, John Openshaw
Environmental Research and Public Health , 2019

Neurocysticercosis (NCC) significantly contributes to morbidity in developing countries. We recently published a study of prevalence and risk factors in school-aged children in three mountainous areas in Sichuan province of western China. Using structural equation modeling (SEM) on data from that study to guide intervention planning, here we examine risk factors grouped into three broad interventional categories: sociodemographics, human behavior, and sources of pork and pig husbandry. Because neuroimaging is not easily available, using SEM allows for the use of multiple observed variables (serological tests and symptoms) to represent probable NCC cases. Data collected from 2608 students was included in this analysis. Within this group, seroprevalence of cysticercosis IgG antibodies was 5.4%. SEM results showed that sociodemographic factors (b = 0.33, p < 0.05), sources of pork and pig husbandry (b = 0.26, p < 0.001), and behavioral factors (b = 0.33, p < 0.05) were all directly related to probable NCC in school-aged children. Sociodemographic factors affected probable NCC indirectly via sources of pork and pig husbandry factors (b = 0.07, p < 0.001) and behavioral variables (b = 0.07, p < 0.001). Both sociodemographic factors (b = 0.07, p < 0.05) and sources of pork and pig husbandry factors (b = 0.10, p < 0.01) affected probable NCC indirectly via behavioral variables. Because behavioral variables not only had a large direct effect but also served as a critical bridge to strengthen the effect of sociodemographics and sources of pork and pig husbandry on probable NCC, our findings suggest that interventions targeting behavioral factors may be the most effective in reducing disease.

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Journal Article

Parental Migration, Educational Achievement, and Mental Health of Junior High School Students in Rural China

Fang Chang, Yuxi Jiang, Prashant Loyalka, James Chu, Yaojiang Shi, Annie Osborn, Scott Rozelle
China Economic Review , 2019
China's rapid development has led to an unprecedented increase in migration rates as an evergrowing number of rural residents migrate to urban areas to seek better job opportunities an help alleviate family poverty. Economic pressures and structural restrictions force many of these migrant workers to leave their children behind in their rural homes, which has led to the emergence and expansion of a new subpopulation in China: left-behind children (LBCs). This study examines the impacts of parental migration on the educational outcomes (specifically math achievement) and mental health (specifically anxiety) of LBCs using data covering 7495 children in a prefecture of Shaanxi Province (from three surveys conducted between 2012 and 2014). We distinguish between “both parents migrating,” “one parent migrating,” “only a father migrating,” and “only a mother migrating.” We also explore the impacts on male versus female LBCs. We find no significant impact of parental migration on the math achievement of LBCs. In terms of mental health, however, our results indicate that left-behind girls were negatively affected by one parent migrating, especially if the migrating parent was the father. The findings suggest that it may not be necessary for policy makers to design special programs to improve educational outcomes of LBCs in general. However, local committees, schools, and parents should pay particular attention to left-behind girls living with only one parent, as they may be more vulnerable to mental health problems than their peers.
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Journal Article

Social Engagement and Elderly Health in China: Evidence from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS)

Jin Liu, Scott Rozelle, Qing Xu, Ning Yu, Tianshu Zhou
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2019

This study examines the impact of social engagement on elderly health in China. A two-stage residual inclusion (2SRI) regression approach was used to examine the causal relationship. Our dataset comprises 9253 people aged 60 or above from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS) conducted in 2011 and 2013. Social engagement significantly improved the self-rated health of the elderly and reduced mental distress, but had no effect on chronic disease status. Compared with the rural areas, social engagement played a more important role in promoting the elderly health status in urban areas. Social engagement could affect the health status of the elderly through health behavior change and access to health resources. To improve the health of the elderly in China and promote healthy aging, the government should not only improve access to effective medical care but also encourage greater social engagement of the elderly.

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Journal Article

Breastfeeding and the Risk of Illness among Young Children in Rural China

Shanshan Li, Ai Yue, Cody Abbey, Alexis Medina, Yaojiang Shi
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2019

Poor rural areas in China exhibit the country’s highest rates of child mortality, often stemming from preventable health conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory infection. In this study, we investigate the association between breastfeeding and disease among children aged 6–24 months in poor rural counties in China. To do this, we conducted a longitudinal, quantitative analysis of socioeconomic demographics, health outcomes, and breastfeeding practices for 1802 child–caregiver dyads across 11 nationally designated poverty counties in southern Shaanxi Province in 2013–2014. We found low rates of continued breastfeeding that decreased as children developed: from 58.2% at 6–12 months, to 21.6% at 12–18 months, and finally to 5.2% at 18–24 months. These suboptimal rates are lower than all but one other country in the Asia-Pacific region. We further found that only 18.3% of children 6–12 months old met the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended threshold for minimum dietary diversity, defined as consuming four or more of seven specific food groups. Breastfeeding was strongly associated with lower rates of both diarrhea and cough in bivariate and multivariate analyses. As the first analysis to use longitudinal data to examine the relationship between continued breastfeeding and child illness in China, our study confirms the need for programmatic interventions that promote continued breastfeeding in order to improve toddler health in the region.

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Journal Article

Caregiver Depression and Early Child Development: A Mixed-Methods Study From Rural China

Ai Yue, Jiaqi Gao, Meredith Yang, Lena Swinnen, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
Frontiers in Psychology , 2018

Half of rural toddlers aged 0–3 years in China’s Qinling Mountainous region are cognitively delayed. While recent studies have linked poor child development measures to the absence of positive parenting behaviors, much less is known about the role that caregiver depression might play in shaping child development. In this paper, a mixed methods analysis is used to explore the prevalence of depression; measure the association between caregiver depression and children’s developmental delays, correlates of depression, and the potential reasons for caregiver depression among women in rural China. The analysis brings together results from a large-scale survey of 1,787 caregivers across 118 villages in one northwestern province, as well as information from in-depth interviews with 55 female caregivers from these same study sites. Participants were asked to respond to the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) as well as a scale to measure children’s social-emotional development, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Social-Emotional (ASQ-SE). We also administered a test of early childhood development, the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (BSID-III), to all of the study household’s infants and toddlers. The results show that the prevalence of depression may be as high as 23.5 percent among all female caregivers (defined as scoring in the mild or higher category of the DASS-21). Grandmothers have higher prevalence of depression than mother caregivers (p < 0.01). Caregiver depression also is significantly associated with a 0.53 SD worsening of children’s social-emotional development (p < 0.01) and a 0.12 SD decrease in children’s language development (p < 0.05). Our qualitative findings reveal six predominant reasons for caregiver depression: lack of social support from family and friends; the burden of caregiving; lack of control and agency within the household; within-family conflict; poverty; the perception of material wealth as a measure of self-worth. Our findings show a serious lack of understanding of mental health issues among rural women, and suggest that rural communities could benefit greatly from an educational program concerning mental health and its influence on child development. Our findings confirm the need for a comprehensive approach toward rural health, with particular attention paid to mental health awareness and support to elderly caregivers.

 

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Journal Article

Is Infant/Toddler Anemia a Problem across Rural China? A Mixed-Methods Analysis

Lei Wang, Yonglei Sun, Buyao Liu, Lijuan Zheng, Mengjie Li, Yu Bai, Annie Osborn, Maggie Lee, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2018
In the past, iron-deficiency anemia in children has had a widespread presence in rural China. Given the recent economic growth in China, it is unclear if anemia among infants/toddlers remains a problem. The objective of this study is to measure the anemia rate in rural Chainese infants/toddlers across four major subpopulations and attempt to discover the sources of anemia. We use a mixed-methods approach combining quantitative data on 2909 rural Chinese infants/toddlers and their families with qualitative interviews with 84 caregivers of infants aged 6 to 30 months. Quantitative analysis indicates that the overall prevalence of anemia (43%) within sampled infants/toddlers was high, especially in comparison to the low rates of stunting (2–5%), being underweight (2%), and wasting (2–4%). These findings suggest that in rural China, anemia stems from the poor quality of the diets of infants/toddlers, rather than insufficient quantities of food being consumed. Qualitative analysis illustrates the factors that are contributing to anemia. Caregivers do not understand the causes of this condition, the symptoms that would lead one to recognize this condition, or the steps needed to treat their child with this condition. The findings offer a comprehensive understanding of the limited awareness of anemia among rural Chinese caregivers.
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Journal Article

Effect of Caregiver's mental Health on Early Childhood Development across Different Rural Communities in China

Siqi Zhang, Ruirui Dang, Ning Yang, Lei Wang, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2018

Previous research has found that there are high rates of developmental delays among infants and toddlers in rural areas of China. Caregiver mental health problems might be one significant predictor of developmental delays among infants and toddlers, as has been found in other areas of the world. One way that the mental health of caregivers could affect early childhood development is through its effect on parenting practices. In this study, we used data from four major subpopulations of rural China to measure the correlation of caregiver mental health problems with the developmental outcomes of infants and toddlers. To do so, the study used the Bayley Scales of Infant Development III (BSID III) to examine the rates of developmental delays among 2514 rural infants/toddlers aged 6–30 months old. The results of the testing demonstrate that 48% of the sample’s infants/toddlers have cognitive delays; 52% have language delays; 53% have social-emotional delays; and 30% have motor delays. The data collection team also assessed caregiver mental health by using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21) questionnaire. According to the findings, 39% of caregivers in the sample have symptoms of at least one kind of mental health problem (depression, anxiety, or stress). We also found that most caregivers do not engage in positive parenting practices, while a significant share of caregivers engage in negative parenting practices. The statistical analysis found that showing signs of mental health problems is significantly and negatively associated with infant/toddler developmental outcomes. The study also found that caregivers who show signs of mental health problems are significantly less likely to engage in interactive parenting practices. The study confirms that society needs to pay more attention to caregiver mental health problems in order to improve infant/toddler developmental outcomes in rural China and increase human capital accumulation in China as a whole.

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Journal Article

Anemia and Student's Educational Performance in Rural Central China: Prevalence, Correlates, and Impacts.

Lili Li, Lei Huang, Yaojiang Shi, Renfu Luo, Meredith Yang, Scott Rozelle
China Economic Review , 2018

Anemia in children impairs physical growth and cognitive development, reducing their overall human capital accumulation. While much research has been conducted on anemia prevalence in the primarily poor and rural western provinces in China, little is known about anemia in the more developed provinces of central China. The overall goal of this study is to assess the extent of anemia in central China and determine the effect of anemia on the academic performance of students. Using data collected from fourth grade students in 25 primary schools, we find that 16–27% of sample children are anemic. Female students and students with mothers who have not migrated for work are more likely to be anemic. Importantly, using both regression analysis and matching methods, we find that students with anemia (and those with low hemoglobin levels) are more likely to perform poorly on standardized mathematics exams. These findings suggest that, over the long term, untreated anemia will perpetuate poverty by restricting the human capital development of affected children.

 

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Anxiety in Rural Chinese Children and Adolescents: 3 Comparisons across Provinces and among Subgroups

Hongyan Liu, Yaojiang Shi, Emma Auden, Scott Rozelle
Environmental Health and Research , 2018

China’s competitive education system has produced notably high learning outcomes, but they may be costly. One potential cost is high levels of anxiety. China has launched several initiatives aimed at improving student mental health. However, little is known about how effective these programs and policies are. The goal of this paper is to examine anxiety levels among children and adolescents in rural China, and to identify which subpopulations are particularly vulnerable to anxiety.

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