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.
High adherence and proper usage of micronutrient powder (MNP) influence child nutritional outcomes, yet few studies explore the role of delivery patterns. This study explores the association between MNP delivery patterns and MNP feeding behaviors among Han and minority caregivers in rural Western China.
In August 2019, a total of 1021 caregiver-child pairs were selected through a four-stage cluster sampling process. A cross-sectional survey collected information on caregiver demographics, MNP delivery patterns (channel and frequency), and MNP feeding behaviors (proper usage and adherence). Using logistic regression, we examined which delivery channels and delivery frequencies were associated with proper usage and high adherence.
The results indicated that minority caregivers had lower levels of proper MNP usage than did Han caregivers (89.2%), with Tibetan caregivers’ reporting the lowest rates of adherence (32.6%). Logistic regression revealed that that township-based channel was significantly correlated with proper usage among Tibetan and Yi caregivers (Odds Ratio, OR = 2.0, p < 0.01; and OR = 3.5, p < 0.001). Overall, the township-based and home-visit channels were significantly correlated with high adherence (OR = 1.7 and OR = 2.3, respectively; p < 0.001); delivery frequency was significantly correlated with high adherence (2 months: OR = 2.2, p < 0.001 and ≤ 1 month: OR = 3.5, p < 0.001) but not correlated with proper usage among the whole sample and individual ethnic groups.
In conclusion, the study finds evidence of a correlation between MNP delivery channel and both proper usage and high adherence as well as a correlation between MNP delivery frequency and high adherence.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
The objectives of this paper were to examine the risk of depression and depressive symptoms among Han and minority children and adolescents in rural China, the links between academic performance and depressive symptoms, and the prevalence of these links among specific subgroups. A total of 8392 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students at 105 sample rural schools in eight low-income counties and districts in a prefectural-level city in Southwestern China were randomly selected using a three-step sampling strategy. A total of 51% of the sample were female (SD = 0.50), and the age range was 7 to 19 years (mean = 11.35 years; SD = 1.05). Using the Patient Health Questionnaire 8-item depression scale, the prevalence of depressive symptoms in the sample was assessed, while data on students’ academic performance (standardized math test) and demographic characteristics were also collected. Our results show that the rates of major depression were 19% for Han students, 18% for Tibetan students, and 22% for Yi students; the rates of severe depression were 2% for Han and Tibetan students, and 3% for Yi students. Yi students were at significantly higher risks for major and severe depression than Han students. We conducted multivariate regression and heterogeneous analyses. Academic performance was negatively and significantly correlated to depressive symptoms. Across the whole sample, students with lower math scores, minority students, boys, younger students, and students with migrant parents were most vulnerable to depressive symptoms. The heterogeneous analysis suggests that among poor-performing students, subgroups at higher risk for depression include boys, non-boarding students, and students whose mothers had graduated from high school or above. These findings indicate a need to improve mental health outcomes of rural Han and minority primary school students, targeting academic performance for possible intervention.
This study conducts an exploratory analysis of the impacts of a center-based early childhood development intervention on the mental health of caregivers, using data from a cluster-randomized controlled trial of 1664 caregivers (Mage = 36.87 years old) of 6- to 24-month-old children in 100 villages in rural China. Caregivers and children in 50 villages received individual parenting training, group activities and open play space in village parenting centers. The results show no significant overall change in caregiver-reported mental health symptoms after 1 year of intervention. Subgroup analyses reveal heterogeneous effects by caregiver socioeconomic status and identity (mother vs. grandmother). Findings suggest that early childhood development interventions without targeted mental health components may not provide sufficient support to improve caregiver mental health.
Although children living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) account for 90% of the global population of children, depression, and anxiety among children in LMICs have been understudied. This study examines the prevalence of depression and anxiety and their associations with biological and psychosocial factors among children across China, with a focus on rural areas. We conducted a large-scale epidemiological study of depression and anxiety among 53,421 elementary and junior high school-aged children across China. The results show that 20% are at risk for depression, 6% are at risk for generalized anxiety, and 68% are at risk for at least one type of anxiety. Girls and junior high school students show a higher risk for both depression and anxiety symptoms, while socioeconomic status has varying associations to depression and anxiety symptoms. Our results also show consistent correlations between depression and anxiety symptoms and standard math test scores. These findings underscore the importance of identification, prevention, and treatment of youth depression and anxiety in underdeveloped areas. As China constitutes 15% of the global population of children under age 18, this study offers valuable information to the field of global mental health.
Using a three-wave longitudinal survey conducted in 815 households in rural Western China, this study aims to examine the association between parental self-perception and early childhood development and the mediation effect of parental investment on the association between parental self-perception and child development when the sample children are at different ages in the early childhood (18–30, 22–36, and 49–65 months). The results demonstrate that parental self-perception are positively and significantly associated with child social-emotional development in all three ages of childhood (from 18 to 65 months). Positive and significant association between parental self-perception and child cognitive development is found in the ages from 22 to 65 months. In addition, findings of this study show that parental investment plays a mediating role in the association between parental self-perception and child cognitive development. The study calls on policymakers to help to strengthen parental self-perception and parental investment related to early childhood development, which should result in better child development in rural China.
This study documents the COVID-19 disease-control measures enacted in rural China and examines the economic and social impacts of these measures. We conducted two rounds of surveys with 726 randomly selected village informants across seven provinces. Strict disease-control measures have been universally enforced and appear to have been successful in limiting disease transmission in rural communities. The infection rate in our sample was 0.001 per cent, a rate that is near the national average outside of Hubei province. None of the villages reported any COVID-19-related deaths. For a full month during the quarantine, the rate of employment of rural workers was essentially zero. Even after the quarantine measures were lifted, nearly 70 per cent of the villagers still were unable to work owing to workplace closures. Although action has been taken to mitigate the potential negative effects, these disease-control measures might have accelerated the inequality between rural and urban households in China.
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.
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.
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).
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.
The gender gap in healthcare can be minimized by implementing subsidized healthcare policies.
Poor knowledge, scarce resources, and lack of or misaligned incentives have been widely documented as drivers of the irrational use of medicine (IUM), which significantly challenges the efficiency of health systems across the globe. However, there is limited understanding of the influence of each factor on IUM. We used detailed data on provider treatment of presumptive asthma cases in rural China to assess the contributions of provider knowledge, resource constraints, and provider behavior on IUM. This study enrolled 370 village providers from southwest China. All providers responded to a clinical vignette to test their knowledge of how to treat presumptive asthma. Resource constraints (“capacity”) were defined as the availability of the prescribed medicines in vignette. To measure provider behavior (“performance”), a subset of providers (104 of 370) were randomly selected to receive unannounced visits by standardized patients (SPs) who performed of presumptive asthma symptoms described in the vignette. We found that, 54% (201/370) of providers provided the vignette-based patients with prescriptions. Moreover, 67% (70/104) provided prescriptions for the SPs. For the vignette, only 10% of the providers prescribed the correct medicines; 38% prescribed only unnecessary medicines (and did not provide correct medicine); 65% prescribed antibiotics (although antibiotics were not required); and 55% prescribed polypharmacy prescriptions (that is, they prescribed five or more different types of drugs). For the SP visits, the numbers were 12%, 51%, 63%, and 0%, respectively. The lower number of medicines in the SP visits was due, in part, to the injections’ not being allowed based on ethical considerations (in response to the vignette, however, 65% of providers prescribed injections). The difference between provider knowledge and capacity is insignificant, while a significant large gap exists between provider performance and knowledge/capacity (for 11 of 17 indicators). Our analysis indicated that capacity constraints play a minor role in driving IUM compared to provider performance in the treatment of asthma cases in rural China. If similar findings hold for other disease cases, this suggests that policies to reduce the IUM in rural China have largely been unsuccessful, and alternatives for improving aligning provider incentives with appropriate drug use should be explored.
To study the factors determining spectacle-wear compliance and reasons for non-wear among students in rural China.
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.
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%).
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.
Background: Social-emotional development during the first three years of life is associated with later social-emotional development and cognitive development. In rural China, research has found large shares of children under age three are developmentally delayed, yet little is known about the paths of social-emotional development before age 3 or how developmental paths predict later social-emotional skills and cognitive skills.
Aims: To investigate the paths of child social-emotional development during ages 0–3 and examine how different paths predict social-emotional development and cognitive development at preschool age.
Methods: Three waves of longitudinal panel data from 1245 children in rural Western China was collected. Child social-emotional development was measured by the Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Social-Emotional. Child cognitive development was measured by the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and by the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Fourth Edition. Four paths of child social-emotional development were classified: “never” social-emotionally delayed; “persistently” social-emotionally delayed; “improving,” or “deteriorating.”
Results: 331 (27%) were never social-emotionally delayed; 373 children (30%) were persistently social-emotionally delayed; 149 children (12%) experienced improving social-emotional development; and 392 children (31%) experienced deteriorating social-emotional development. Children who were never social-emotionally delayed or who were on an “improving” path had higher social-emotional development at preschool age (p < .01). Children who were persistently social-emotionally delayed (p < .5) and on a deteriorating path (p < .01) had lower social-emotional development at preschool age. Children on the persistently delay path also were shown to have lower levels of cognitive development at preschool age (p < .01).
Conclusions: Different paths of child social-emotional development before age 3 are associated with different social-emotional and cognitive development at preschool age.
Research continues to highlight the central relationship between caregivers’ mental health and their children’s development. This study examined the relation between primary caregivers’ mental health and school-aged children’s outcomes, including student mental health, resilience, and academic performance, in rural China. Using cross-sectional data from economically poor areas in the Gansu province, 2989 students (mean age = 11.51, 53.33% male, 46.67% female) and their primary caregivers (74.2% female) completed the 21-item, self-report Depression Anxiety Stress Scale. Students also completed the 25-item Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale and a standardized math test. The results indicated a high prevalence of caregiver depression (31%), stress (39%), and anxiety (24%). Characteristics that were significantly correlated with caregiver mental health issues included being a grandparent, having a low socioeconomic status and low education level, and living in a household with at least one migrant worker. Apart from caregiver stress and student resilience, caregiver mental health issues were negatively correlated with all student outcomes, including student mental health, resilience, and academic performance. Although additional empirical research is needed to investigate the associations between caregiver mental health and student outcomes, our results suggest that rural communities could benefit greatly from programs focused on improving the mental health of caregivers and this, in turn, may have a positive impact on student outcomes.
Background: Maternal mental health problems play an important role in infant well-being. Although western countries have extensively studied the associations between maternal mental disorders, hygiene practices and infant health, little is known in developing settings. This study investigates the correlations between postnatal mental health problems, hand washing practices and infant illness in rural western China. Methods: A total of 720 mothers of infants aged 0–6 months from four poor counties in rural western China were included in the survey. Mental health symptoms were assessed using the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21). Questions about infant illness and hand washing practices followed evaluative surveys from prior studies. Adjusted ordinary least squares regressions were used to examine correlations between postnatal mental health (depression, anxiety, and stress) symptoms, hand washing practices, and infant illness outcomes. Results: Maternal depression, anxiety and stress symptoms were significantly associated with reduced hand washing overall and less frequent hand washing after cleaning the infant's bottom. Mental health symptoms were also associated with a higher probability of infants showing two or more illness symptoms and visiting a doctor for illness symptoms. Individual hand washing practices were not significantly associated with infant illness; however, a composite measure of hand washing practices was significantly associated with reduced probability of infant illness. Conclusion: Postnatal mental health problems are prevalent in rural China and significantly associated with infant illness. Policy makers and practitioners should investigate possible interventions to improve maternal and infant well-being.
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.
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.
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.
Assessing the mental health problems encountered by school children and understanding the contributing factors are crucial to inform strategies aimed at improving mental health in low-resource contexts. However, few studies have investigated the mental health problems among disadvantaged children in poorer countries. This study examines the prevalence of mental health problems in rural China and their association with child and family characteristics. The study uses survey data from 9696 children in 120 rural primary schools and measures child mental health using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Overall, 17.9% of the sample children were found to be in the abnormal range of the SDQ total difficulties scores. The mean score was 12.93 (SD = 4.94). Abnormal scores were associated with child and family characteristics, including older child age (Odds Ratio, OR = 0.704, 95% CI: 0.611, 0.810; p < 0.001), gender (OR = 1.235, 95% CI: 1.112, 1.371; p < 0.001), and academic performance (OR = 0.421, 95% CI: 0.369, 0.480; p < 0.001). Reading time was found to be protective for mental health. Risk factors include excessive screen time (OR = 1.685, 95% CI: 1.409, 2.016; p < 0.001) and being bullied (OR = 3.695, 95% CI: 3.301, 4.136; p < 0.001). Our study suggests that future mental health illness prevention programs in rural China should consider targeting different aspects of children’s social contexts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.