Working to bring quality health care to rural communities.
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.
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 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.
Economic Development and Cultural Change,
September 15, 2023
Besides increasing knowledge, there is another potential mechanism at work when information is delivered to a treatment group: increasing the salience of existing knowledge. We use data from a randomized controlled trial of a health information campaign to explore the relative importance of this additional mechanism in a real-world environment. The health information campaign addressed the benefits of wearing eyeglasses and provided information meant to address the common misconceptions that contribute to low adoption rates of eyeglasses. In total, our study sample included 931 students with poor vision (mostly myopia), their parents, and their homeroom teachers in 84 primary schools in rural China. We find that the health information campaign was able to successfully increase student ownership and wearing of eyeglasses, relative to a control group. We demonstrate that the campaign had a larger impact when levels of preexisting information among certain subgroups of participants—namely, parents of students—were higher while we simultaneously provided new information to others. This suggests that the interaction between directed attention (i.e., salience) and baseline knowledge is important. We do not, however, find similar increases among teachers or the students themselves and additionally find no impacts on academic outcomes.
Objective To test the feasibility and effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention in rural-to-urban migrant Chinese children using trained community volunteers.
Method Migrant students ages 9 to 16 from 5 schools in Shanghai (N = 653) were randomly assigned to a mindfulness only group (n = 167), a mindfulness plus life skills group (n = 118), or a waitlist control group (n = 368). The first 2 groups received an 8-week mindfulness intervention delivered 1 hour weekly by trained community volunteers. The mindfulness plus life skills group received 8 additional hours of skills-based mentorship. Measurements on mindfulness, resilience, and anxiety and depression symptoms were collected before and after intervention. Multivariable regression analyses compared the intervention vs control groups.
Results Before intervention, there were no significant demographic or outcome measure differences between groups except that students in the intervention groups were slightly older. Students had relatively low levels of mindfulness and prosociality difficulties and similar degrees of depression and anxiety symptoms compared with prior studies. After intervention, no statistically significant differences were found in mean scores for mindfulness, resilience, anxiety, or depression in the intervention vs control groups.
Conclusion A volunteer-led mindfulness intervention did not significantly benefit migrant Chinese children after 8 weeks. More implementation research is needed for low-cost, scalable, and contextually effective mental health prevention programs.
Background: Prenatal anaemia causes serious consequences for both mother and foetus, and dietary factors are suggested to be associated with anaemia. However, research in pregnant women living in rural areas is limited. We aim to assess the contribution of dietary diversity to the magnitude of prenatal anaemia in rural China and identify the interactions between dietary diversity and several sociodemographic and maternal characteristics in relation to anaemia. Methods: A multi-stage random cluster sampling method was used to select pregnant women in rural western China. The Woman’s Dietary Diversity Score was created to measure dietary diversity, which was recoded into terciles. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to assess the associations between dietary diversity score terciles and the magnitude of prenatal anaemia. Multiplicative interactions were tested by adding the product term of dietary diversity and several sociodemographic and maternal characteristics into the regression models. Results: Out of 969 participants, 54.3% were measured as anaemic, with 28.6% mildly anaemic and 25.7% moderately to severely anaemic. There was an absence of agreement between self-reported and measured anaemia status (κ = 0.28, 95% CI [0.22–0.34]). Participants in the highest dietary diversity score tercile had lower odds of being moderately to severely anaemic after adjusting for potential confounders (RRR = 0.65, 95% CI [0.44, 0.98]). In participants with moderate to severe anaemia, significant interactions were found between dietary diversity score terciles, age, and parity (p for interaction < 0.05). Conclusions: The prevalence of prenatal anaemia in rural China remains high, and pregnant women living in these areas are insufficiently aware of their anaemia status. Improving dietary diversity is needed to manage prenatal anaemia in rural areas.
Infants born small for gestational age (SGA) remains a significant global public health concern, with potential interconnections among maternal diet, pre-pregnancy BMI, gestational weight gain (GWG), and SGA. This prospective study investigated the association between dietary diversity (DD) during pregnancy and the risk of SGA, as well as the synergistic effect of DD with pre-pregnancy BMI and GWG on SGA. Maternal dietary intake during pregnancy was assessed using 24 h dietary recalls, and dietary diversity scores (DDS) were calculated based on the FAO’s Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women index. Infant information was followed up. The Poisson regression model was employed to determine the association between maternal DD and SGA. Interactions between DD and pre-pregnancy BMI or GWG were evaluated under additive and multiplicative models. Among the 560 singleton live births, 62 (11.07%) were classified as SGA. After adjusting for potential confounders, the DDS exhibited a protective effect against SGA (aRR: 0.76; 95% CI: 0.62–0.95). DD modified the association between being underweight prior to pregnancy and SGA on the additive scale (interaction contrast ratio = 7.39; 95% CI: 5.84, 8.94). These findings suggest that improving dietary diversity during pregnancy, particularly among women with a low pre-pregnancy BMI, may be a feasible strategy to reduce the risk of SGA newborns.
Risk Management and Healthcare Policy,
March 9, 2023
Purpose: We examine how adolescent free time allocation—namely, screen time and outdoor time—is associated with mental health and academic performance in rural China.
Methods: This paper used a large random sample of rural junior high school students in Ningxia (n = 20,375; age=13.22), with data collected from self-reported demographic questionnaires (to assess free time allocation), the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (to assess mental health), and a standardized math test (to measure academic performance). We utilized a multivariate OLS regression model to examine associations between free time allocation and adolescent outcomes, controlling for individual and family characteristics.
Results: Our sample’s screen time and outdoor time both averaged around 1 hour. About 10% of the sample adolescents reported behavioral difficulties, while a similar percentage (11%) reported abnormal prosocial behaviors. Adolescents with higher levels of screen time (> 2 hours) were 3 percentage points more likely to have higher levels of behavioral difficulties (p< 0.001), indicating that excessive screen time was associated with worse mental health. Meanwhile, outdoor time was associated with better mental health, and positive correlations were observed at all levels of outdoor time (compared to no outdoor time, decreasing the likelihood of higher levels of behavioral difficulties by between 3 and 4 percentage points and of lower prosocial scores by between 6 and 8 percentage points; all p’s< 0.001). For academic performance, average daily screen times of up to 1 hour and 1– 2 hours were both positively associated with standardized math scores (0.08 SD, p< 0.001; 0.07 SD, p< 0.01, respectively), whereas there were no significant associations between outdoor time and academic performance.
Conclusion: Using a large sample size, this study was the first to examine the association between adolescent free time allocation with mental health and academic performance, providing initial insights into how rural Chinese adolescents can optimize their free time.
Background Mothers’ perception of infant hunger cues is a critical content of responsive feeding, which is central to the promotion of early childhood development. However, only a few studies have examined responsive feeding in China, especially lacking the studies on perceptions of infant hunger cues. Consider the cultural differences, the aim of this study was to describe the perceptions of infant hunger cues of Chinese mothers for infants aged 3 months, and explore the relationship between maternal perceptions of infant hunger cues and different feeding methods.
Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted with a sample of 326 mothers of healthy 3-month-old infants, including 188 exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) mothers and 138 formula feeding (FF) mothers. It was implemented in four provincial and municipal maternal and child health hospitals. The mothers’ perceptions of infant hunger cues were surveyed by self-reporting questionnaires. Chi-square tests and logistic analysis were applied to analyze the differences in maternal perceptions of infant hunger cues, including the number of hunger cues and the specific cues, between EBF group and FF group by controlling sociodemographic variables and the daily nursing indicators.
Results We found that a higher proportion of EBF mothers could perceive multiple hunger cues (≥ 2) than FF mothers (66.5% vs.55.1%). For specific cues, the EBF mothers had higher perceptions of infant’s “hand sucking” (67.6% vs. 53.6%) and “moving head frantically from side to side” (34.6% vs. 23.9%), all p < 0.05. Regression analysis revealed that EBF might support mothers to perceive infant hunger cues than FF mothers, with the number of infant hunger cues (OR = 1.70, 95% CI: 1.01–2.85), “hand sucking” (OR = 1.72, 95% CI: 1.04–2.87), “moving head frantically from side to side” (OR = 2.07, 95% CI: 1.19–3.62). The number of infant hunger cues perceived by mothers was also associated with their educational level and family structure.
Conclusion EBF mothers of 3-month-old infants may be more likely to perceive infant hunger cues than FF mothers in China. It is necessary to increase the health education about infant hunger and satiety cues to caregivers in China, especially among mothers with lower education levels, mothers living in nuclear families, and FF mothers.
The WHO recommends daily use of micronutrient powder for infants and toddlers at risk of micronutrient deficiencies in low-and-middle-income countries. China has established a micronutrient powder distribution program in many rural townships and villages, yet adherence to micronutrient powder remains suboptimal; a little is known about the behavioral inputs that may influence adherence. This study examines direct and indirect behavioral inputs in micronutrient powder adherence among caregivers in rural western China following the Integrated Behavioral Model (IBM) framework.
Cross-sectional data were collected from April to May 2019 among 958 caregivers of children aged 6 to 24 months in six counties. Data were collected on micronutrient powder adherence behavior, direct behavioral inputs (knowledge and skills, intention, salience, environmental constraints, and habits), and indirect behavioral inputs (attitudes, perceived social norms, and personal agency). Structural equation modeling (SEM) adjusted for sociodemographic covariates was used to evaluate the IBM framework.
Mean micronutrient powder adherence in the previous seven days was 53.02%, and only 22.86% of caregivers consistently fed micronutrient powder from the start of micronutrient powder distribution at six months of age. The SEM model revealed small- to medium-sized effects of salience (β = 0.440, P < 0.001), intention (β = 0.374, P < 0.001), knowledge and skills (β = 0.214, P < 0.001), personal agency (st. effect = 0.172, P < 0.001), environmental constraints (β=-0.142, P < 0.001), and caregiver generation (β = 0.119, P < 0.05) on micronutrient powder adherence. Overall, 54.7% of the variance in micronutrient powder adherence was explained by the IBM framework. Salience had the largest impact on micronutrient powder adherence (Cohen’s f 2 = 0.227). Compared to parent caregivers, grandparents had a higher degree of micronutrient powder adherence on average (P < 0.001), and behavioral inputs were consistent among both parent and grandparent caregivers.
There is a need to improve micronutrient powder adherence among rural caregivers. The IBM framework showed a high degree of explanatory power in predicting micronutrient powder adherence behavior. The findings suggest that increased reminders from doctors regarding micronutrient powder and coaching to improve personal agency in micronutrient powder feeding may increase adherence.
Infant Behavior and Development,
November 16, 2022
Family-level factors that characterize the home environment are critical inputs to early language and cognitive development, and potential mechanisms for improving developmental outcomes in vulnerable populations. Many studies conducted in high-income and Western settings highlight stimulating parenting, the home language environment, and parental self-efficacy as possible mechanisms of early development, though less is known about how these family-level factors impact child development in low- or middle-income settings. Even less is known about these family-level factors and early childhood development in rural China, where rates of cognitive and language delay in children aged 0–3 years are as high as 45% and 46%, respectively. Using data collected from 77 rural households with children aged 18–24 months in Southwestern China, this study examines the associations between stimulating parenting, the home language environment, and parental self-efficacy, and early cognitive and language development. The results indicate that stimulating parenting was significantly associated with cognitive, language, and overall development; the home language environment was only significantly associated with language development; and parental self-efficacy was not significantly associated with any developmental outcomes. The implications of such findings reveal mechanisms for supporting healthy child development in rural China.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,
November 10, 2022
As digital devices like computers become more widely available in developing countries, there is a growing need to understand how the time that adolescents spend using these devices for recreational purposes such as playing video games is linked with their mental health outcomes. We measured the amount of time that adolescents in rural China spent playing video games and the association of video game time with their mental health. We collected data from primary and junior high schools in a poor, rural province in northwest China (n = 1603 students) and used the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales (DASS-21) to measure mental health symptoms. The results indicated that the average video game time was about 0.69 h per week. There was a significant association between adolescent video game time and poorer mental health. Each additional hour of playing video games also increased the chance of having moderate or above symptoms. Moreover, boys and non-left-behind children had worse mental health if they played more video games. Our study contributes to literature on the links between recreational screen time and mental health, and it sheds light on an issue addressed by recent government legislation to limit the video game time of minors in China.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,
October 25, 2022
Over the past two decades, the literature has shown a clear gradient between child health and wealth. The same health–wealth gradient is also observed among children in China, with a large gap in health between rural and urban children. However, there are still unanswered questions about the main causes of China’s rural–urban child health inequality. This paper aims to review the major factors that have led to the relatively poor levels of health among China’s rural children. In addition to the direct income effect on children’s health, children in rural areas face disadvantages compared with their urban counterparts from the beginning of life: Prenatal care and infant health outcomes are worse in rural areas; rural caregivers have poor health outcomes and lack knowledge and support to provide adequate nurturing care to young children; there are large disparities in access to quality health care between rural and urban areas; and rural families are more likely to lack access to clean water and sanitation. In order to inform policies that improve health outcomes for the poor, there is a critical need for research that identifies the causal drivers of health outcomes among children. Strengthening the pediatric training and workforce in rural areas is essential to delivering quality health care for rural children. Other potential interventions include addressing the health needs of mothers and grandparent caregivers, improving parenting knowledge and nurturing care, improving access to clean water and sanitation for remote families, and most importantly, targeting poverty itself.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,
October 15, 2022
The self-esteem of students may be significantly associated with their academic performance. However, past research in developing contexts on this issue is limited, particularly among early adolescents. Using a sample of 3101 students from rural primary and junior high schools in China, this study measured their self-esteem by the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) and explored its association with academic performance. Our findings indicate that students in rural China had both significantly lower self-esteem and a higher prevalence of low self-esteem when compared to past studies of similarly aged students both from urban China and internationally. Furthermore, there was a strong positive correlation between a student’s self-esteem and academic performance. A one-SD increase in RSES score (indicating better self-esteem) was associated with an increase of 0.12 SD in standardized math scores (p < 0.001), and students with low self-esteem (RSES score < 25) scored lower on math tests by 0.14 SD (p < 0.001), which were robust and consistent when employing the propensity score matching method. Our study expands the growing body of empirical evidence on the link between self-esteem and academic performance among rural youth in developing countries and emphasizes the need to improve their self-esteem with the aim of helping them achieve academically.
Although eyeglasses have been considered a cost-effective way to combat myopia, the empirical evidence of its impacts on improving learning outcomes is inconsistent. This paper provides empirical evidence examining the effect of providing eyeglasses on academic performance between provinces with a different economic level in western China. Overall, we find a significant impact in Intention-to-Treat analysis and a large and significant local average treatment effect of providing free eyeglasses to students in the poor province but not in the other. The difference in impact between the two provinces is not a matter of experimental design, implementation, or partial compliance. Instead, we find that the lack of impact in the wealthier provinces is mainly due to less blackboard usage in class and wealthier households. Our study found that providing free eyeglasses to disadvantaged groups boosted their academic performance more than to their counterparts.
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.
International Breastfeeding Journal,
August 20, 2022
Background: The importance of breastfeeding in low- and middle- income countries is well recognized, yet the importance of postnatal mental health on breastfeeding practices and beliefs in these settings has been understudied. This study investigates the associations between maternal mental health problems, breastfeeding beliefs and breastfeeding practices in rural China.
Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected in November and December 2019 from 742 mothers of infants under 6 months old in rural Sichuan Province, China. Maternal mental health (depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms) was assessed using the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (short form). Breastfeeding beliefs were assessed using the Iowa Infant Feeding Attitude Scale and Breastfeeding Self-Efficacy Scale (short form). Breastfeeding practices were assessed through a 24-h dietary recall questionnaire. Ordinary least squares regression, multiple logistic regression and heterogeneous effects analyses were used to identify associations between symptoms of mental health problems and breastfeeding outcomes.
Results: The average age of sample infants was 2.7 months. Among mothers, 13% showed symptoms of depression, 16% anxiety, and 9% stress. The prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in the previous 24 h was 38.0%. Depression symptoms were significantly associated with breastfeeding attitude and breastfeeding self-efficacy. Anxiety and stress symptoms were significantly associated with breastfeeding self-efficacy. There were no significant associations between symptoms of mental health problems and exclusive breastfeeding. The heterogeneous effects analyses revealed that less educated mothers with symptoms of stress had lower odds of exclusive breastfeeding than educated mothers without symptoms of stress. Mothers of younger infants had higher odds of exclusive breastfeeding than the mother of older infants, regardless of depression, anxiety, or stress symptoms.
Conclusion: Symptoms of maternal mental health problems are significantly associated with breastfeeding attitude and self-efficacy; however, these symptoms are not associated with breastfeeding practices. Maternal educational level and infant age may play a role in mothers’ breastfeeding practices. To improve breastfeeding practices, interventions should employ a multi-dimensional approach that focuses on improving maternal mental well-being and considers demographic characteristics.
Proper management of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is a severe challenge to China's rural health system. This study investigates what influences the poor medical treatment of NCDs (diabetes and angina) by evaluating the “know-do gap” between provider knowledge and practice. To determine whether low levels of provider knowledge low quality of patient care is the primary constraint on the quality of NCDs diagnosis and treatment in rural China. Providers from Village Clinics (VC) and Township Health Centers (THC), and Standardized Patients (SP) were selected by a multi-stage random sampling method. Clinical vignettes were administered to 306 providers from 103 VCs and 50 THCs in rural Sichuan Province. SPs presented diabetes symptoms completed 97 interactions with providers in 46 VCs and 51 THCs; SPs presented angina symptoms completed 100 interactions with providers in 50 VCs and 50 THCs. Process quality, diagnosis quality, and treatment quality were assessed against national standards for diabetes and angina. Two-tailed T-tests and tests of proportions for continuous outcomes and tests of proportions for binary dependent variables were used to compare vignette and SP results. Differences between vignette and SP data calculated the know-do gap. Regression analyses were used to examine the providers/facility characteristics and knowledge/practice associations. THC providers demonstrated significantly more knowledge in vignettes and better practices in SP visits than VC providers. However, levels of knowledge were low overall: 48.2% of THC providers and 28.2% of VC providers properly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, while 23.8% of THC providers and 14.7% of VC providers properly diagnosed angina. With SPs, 2.1% of THC providers and 6.8% of VC providers correctly diagnosed type 2 diabetes; 25.5% of THC providers and 12.8% of VC providers correctly diagnosed angina. There were significant know-do gaps in diagnosis process quality, diagnosis quality, and treatment quality for diabetes (p < 0.01), and in diagnosis process quality (p < 0.05) and treatment quality for angina (p < 0.01). Providers in rural China display low levels of knowledge when treating diabetes and angina. Despite low knowledge, evidence of the know-do gap indicates that low-quality healthcare is the primary constraint on the quality of NCD diagnosis and treatment in rural China. Our research findings provide a new perspective for the evaluation of the medical quality and a technical basis for the development of new standardized cases in the future.
Behavioral strengths and difficulties among children and adolescents may be significantly associated with their academic performance; however, the evidence on this issue for rural youth in developing contexts is limited. This study explored the prevalence and correlates of mental health from three specific dimensions—internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and prosocial behavior—measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), and the association of these dimensions with academic performance in math among a sample of 1500 students in rural China. Our findings indicated that students in rural China had worse behavioral difficulties and poorer prosocial skills when compared to most past studies conducted inside and outside of China. In addition, total difficulties and prosocial scores on the SDQ were significantly associated with student math test scores, as students whose externalizing, internalizing, and prosocial scores were in the abnormal range scored lower in math by 0.35 SD, 0.23 SD, and 0.33 SD, respectively. The results add to the growing body of empirical evidence related to the links between social environment, mental health, and academic performance in developing countries, highlighting the importance of students’ mental health for their academic performance, and of understanding risk factors in the social environment among rural youth in developing countries.
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.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,
May 16, 2022
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.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,
April 20, 2022
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.
International Journal for Equity in Health,
February 19, 2022
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.