Student Symposium on Public Health in Asia

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Saturday, February 18, 2017 from 12 PM – 4 PM
Charles Common Salon B
Co-sponsored by the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Public Health Studies Program, the International Studies Program, and the East Asian Studies Program

The Johns Hopkins University East Asian Studies Program, in collaboration with the International Studies Program and the Bloomberg School of Public Health titled its third annual Public Health in Asia Symposium “The Price of Progress.” The conference brought up the challenges in family therapy, mental health, infectious diseases, and health care and policy coming to light in China, as rural to urban migration rates skyrocket. The two keynote speakers were Dr. Norman Epstein of the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Dr. Paul Kadetz of Marshall University College of Health Professions.

Dr. Epstein, who is considered a pioneer in the development of cognitive-behavioral therapy with families, presented a lecture about “Mental Health Challenges and Therapy with Families in Asia.” He began with explaining that “family therapy is a fairly young field, especially in China,” and that many aspects of western family therapy do not mix well with Asian traditions. The need for family therapy has become more significant as rapid economic growth and social change occur in China, which he views as a double edged sword. Positives include expanded opportunities to achieve a higher standard of living and greater educational and occupational opportunities for women. On the other end, increased competition for educational and occupational opportunities place severe academic pressure on children and parents. Moreover, the high cost of living in urban centers poses major barriers for young adults. Empirical evidence suggest that this pressure is related to increased divorce, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems among adults and children, on top of conflict and aggression in family relationships. Dr. Epstein stressed the point that the “traditional approach to emotional problems in China has been individual. How do you then make the shift towards non biological factors and family factors?” Societal factors – filial piety, changing gender roles, rural to urban migration, and academic pressure – were discussed and their effects analyzed.

Dr. Kadetz’s research focused more on immunological consequences, as he lectured about “Contagious Communications: Tracing Antimicrobial Resistance in Rural China through the Social, Cultural, and Built Environments.” “Bacteria is transmitted very often in hospitals and in clinics,” he began. After discussing the purpose of antibiotics – to target and eliminate malevolent entities in the body – he added that, “In China, there is an over prescription of antibiotics because of the growing birth rate.” Unfortunately, some existing bacteria are resistant to the antibiotics and develop a resistance to the medicine. When this happens, the surviving bacteria procreate, rendering the body immune to antibiotics. “Asia is home to a great deal of Antibiotic resistance. It is predicted by 2050 that Asia will be the hot point of 5 million deaths due to antibiotic resistance,” Dr. Kadetz explained. He described the social and cultural model, a method of conducting research in which positive deviance is monitored; this process includes “look[ing] at what’s working, and why it’s working.” Another factor contributing to antimicrobial resistance in China is the culture of retail pharmacies and the phenomenon of cultural Incentivizing, in which physicians feel pressure from their communities to quickly cure their patients; people are not content unless they are treated, and so, physicians are being attacked, and officials give patients IVs of antibiotics regardless of whether the antibiotic is palliative. Agents from pharmaceutical companies also bribe officials to sell their products; British conglomerate GSK was found guilty of this and fined $498 million. Dr. Kadetz’s last point was the stigma surrounding rural to urban migrants, who are believed to know nothing about personal hygiene and carry diseases with them. Rural workers are not given access to hospitals in the cities, and must therefore turn to suspicious private clinics for treatment.

The Symposium also featured three original research projects put together by three Johns Hopkins Students. First year undergraduate Shahmir Ali explored the emerging challenges facing Asia Pacific, specifically globalization and competition, labor migration, aging population and lifestyle diseases, in his “Developing an Integrative Settings Approach to Workplace Health Promotion in the Asia-Pacific: History, Current Examples, Challenges.” First year SAIS graduate student Danny Dong-Hyun Jeon followed with his presentation, entitled “The Development of South Korea’s Healthcare System,” and Doctoral student Ungki Jung rounded out the student speakers with his lecture on “Explaining Institutional Change: Healthcare Reform in South Korea and Taiwan.”

Isabel Evans, Organizing Committee Chair, delivered the closing remarks.