China is facing an increasing demand for health professionals with a background in global health issues, and University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Professor Yuanan Lu is working to help Chinese universities meet this demand for a highly-trained public health workforce.
Recently Lu, of the Office of Public Health Studies at the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, collaborated with global health experts on a project to create the first global health bachelor curriculum in China. The new program at Wuhan University can be used as a guide for other institutions that want to develop similar programs.
“We wanted to create a curriculum that will provide students with a strong background in understanding and addressing global health issues, such as food security and maternal-child health,” Lu said. “We wanted the students of this program to graduate and be prepared to become health professionals with international and intercultural competencies.” Lu and his colleagues published a paper outlining the new curriculum in BMJ Open.
Expanding collaborative efforts in China
In a separate project, Lu worked with collaborators at Fudan University to test drinking water in the city of Shaoxing for chemicals called nitrosamines, which are linked with cancer and stillbirths. Shaoxing is a developing, middle-sized city located in the Yangtze River Delta.
Researchers found that the levels of some nitrosamines exceeded the levels allowed in U.S. drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency. The findings show that there is an urgent need to improve nitrosamine regulations in China, the researchers wrote in their study, published in December in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.
Building a thriving public health exchange program with China
Both projects stemmed from a thriving international exchange program between UH Mānoa’s Office of Public Health Studies and several schools of public health and traditional Chinese medicine in China. Lu is the chair of the program.
As China’s economy continues to grow, health issues and health inequality have quickly become challenges for the country, Lu says. Since the exchange program began in 2007, 22 faculty members and 39 students from UH Mānoa’s Public Health have gone to China, and more than 200 faculty members and students have come to UH Mānoa from Wuhan University, Nanchang University and Fudan University.
The program has resulted in more than 100 published research papers over 12 years.
“Global health education programs are common in universities in many highly-developed countries today, and now China is working to establish a better health care education system,” Lu said. “This system will help the country to address health issues and conduct research to provide evidence for policy-making decisions.”