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Translated from report by CHRD, published: March 8, 2016 and updated on March 9     (China Change exclusive: Guo Feixiong attending a citizen meeting in Beijing on July 28, 2012, with Dr. Xu Zhiyong, who has been serving a four-year sentence since July 2013 for leading the New Citizens Movement, in the audience. Video recorded by Xiao Guozhen, subtitle by @WLYeung  and @awfan.)   On Friday March 4 we received news that Guo Feixiong, the renowned human rights leader who was wrongfully sentenced to six years last November, had on February 22 been sent to the remote the Yangchun Prison in Guangdong (广东阳春监狱) to serve his sentence. On February 29 his older sister, Yang Maoping (杨茂平), went to see him in prison, and found that […]

Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke is the Man Asian Literary Prize nominated story of a small village in Henan as it is ravaged by the AIDS epidemic that spread through central China nearly a decade ago (and continues to devastate communities to this day). Even though it is a work of fiction, the author is a respected anthropologist who did a large amount of field work prior to writing this book. It is a tale of the gov’t’s failure to prevent/control the spread of the disease and inability to provide basic assistance to those afflicted. It is also an interesting view of how village life is portrayed in Chinese literature and the ways in which extended families operate in rural life. The story […]

Any foreigner who has spent more than a few hours in China might have noticed that smokers are everywhere. Many notice it before they even leave the airport. In Shanghai’s Pudong airport, it’s not uncommon to see a man place a cigarette between his lips or behind his ear before he’s even off the plane. Most of them will duck into the first bathroom they can find to light up, despite the ban on smoking in airports (this might not be the first impression they were hoping for when they built PVG). But what does the ubiquitous smoking tell us about China? First, it gives us a very interesting glimpse into how many Chinese view freedom. In the west we might define freedom as the ability to […]

After reading an article about the myriad problems facing China’s health system, I asked the doctors in my medical English class to briefly reflect on the system based on their own ideas and opinions. Of the 17, 15 doctors wrote that China’s system faced serious challenges. The following are excerpts from their papers that I think accurately reflect the challenges currently facing China’s health. I have not fact checked them, and in some cases I’m fairly certain they aren’t accurate, but that the doctors believe these statistics is revealing. This one echoed many of the main points of the other doctors. “For patients, medical services are too expensive. It is said that the average cost is about 500 yuan for a common cold in a […]

The other week I had a chance to discuss nutrition with the doctors at my hospital. As we looked at beverages and snacks, many of them were surprised to see that the healthy choices they thought they had been making, weren’t so great. For example, every single one of the 30 doctors was shocked to learn that a bowl of instant noodles had twice as much sodium and much more fat than a grilled chicken sandwich from KFC. The general agreement was that if they were misinformed about nutrition, than the public would probably be even less informed. A large part of the problem was that nutritional information was either absent or not in a standard, easy to understand format. China’s urban areas are now facing […]

The other day I was discussing infectious diseases with a group of doctors. The question was relatively simple, “How do diseases spread?” They quickly offered: through coughing, sharing chopsticks, touching, mother to infant, and even mosquitoes. I continued, “those are all correct, but how about viruses like HIV or hepatitis?” A few perked up with “Blood transfusions!” I waited another minute before giving in, and adding, “and sexual intercourse.” When I said those two words, everyone’s eyes dropped to the floor (keep in mind these are doctors in their 30’s and 40’s). I had mentioned a taboo topic. The problem, as in most cultures, is that even though the topic is off limits, it doesn’t mean that Chinese youth are celibate. Chinese youth have a poor […]

I work in a large hospital, and sometimes there are “unfavorable outcomes”, which in hospital-speak translates as a death or life changing mistake. When we have an unfavorable outcome families typically gather in front of the administration offices and battle with the hospital’s security guards (we have a whole police office). These skirmishes have become increasingly common in China, and I’ve written about such an instance before (A fight at the hospital – Abortion in China), but it is a topic that deserves further discussion. Let’s start with a recent example; a patient committed suicide by jumping out of his hospital room window as a result of being dissatisfied with his treatment, either because his disease was incurable, the pain was intolerable, or the bill was […]

As one of the very few expat bloggers working in a Chinese hospital I feel it is my responsibility to share some tips on going to the ER in China, as well as a bonus helping of awful hospital experiences. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use these. Bring someone with you Chinese hospitals are not designed for the patient’s convenience, so even if you have excellent language skills, odds are that you will need someone to assist you while you are there. For foreign teachers I would strongly recommend bringing a co-worker or someone from the foreign affairs office since they will generally be able to use the school’s clout on your behalf. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I saw a doctor, and then […]

I apologize if this is too much information In my four years in China I have had three experiences where I thought either my friends or myself were near death. The first instance came about a month after I arrived in rural China. Not surprisingly I was struck with terrible food poisoning, which I tried to ignore. After running to the bathroom every fifteen minutes for 2 hours, I was still trying to claim that I was just fine. I knew that in rural China the last place I wanted to be was their filthy health clinic. Before arriving in Longzhou I had met a grad student in Beijing who had informed me of an experience he had in rural Yunnan province. The nurses at […]

If you are new to Traditional Chinese Medicine I suggest reading my other posts on the topic first (1, 2, 3, 4) For many Westerners “Traditional Chinese Medicine” brings to mind an image something like this However this is not what TCM looks like in most of China. At the hospital where I work there is a TCM department, their patients are mostly elderly and have been referred for pain management, not yin and yang disharmony. TCM is shifting from local practitioners who collected their own herbs to massive TCM pharmaceutical companies, the entire system is changing. I thought today we should wrap up our look at TCM by discussing its possible future. Medications It may surprise many of my western readers to learn that […]

When I tell other foreigners that I am working in a Chinese hospital, the conversation often takes a quick detour to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Often they tell me that TCM is a much healthier choice, the evil of big pharmaceutical companies, and how thousands of years of practice have made TCM more effective. There is a lot here to unpack. Today though we’ll just be building a basic understanding of some of the concepts central to TCM. Bear with me, understanding TCM is essential for understanding how Chinese culture views intricate systems, not just the physical body. Modern TCM generally traces itself back to a book from the 1st century BC called “The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Cannon.” This led Chinese medicine from focusing on […]

This continues a series we’ve been reading on physical disabilities and mental handicaps. In China only a tiny amount of funding goes into mental health, even though it is estimated that roughly 1.5% of the population suffer from serious mental illnesses (that’s nearly 15 million people). In the past few years there have been a growing number of reports of violence caused by underlying mental problems, which included a spate of attacks on kindergartens last year. China also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, exact numbers are very hard to come by. One fact that is not disputed though is that China is the only country in the world where more women commit suicide than men. Perhaps the most shocking statistic […]

I lived in China for almost three years before I saw someone in public in a wheelchair, and I have yet to see anyone using one under their own power. I think this is largely because China wasn’t built for wheelchairs. Even in the big cities, it’s hard to find a side walk that would be suitable for rolling, and almost every building has a half dozen steps to the front door. For most of China’s physically disabled people, I would imagine it is difficult to even leave their home, since buildings with less than 8 floors typically do not have elevators. This also includes schools and practically every government building. Not only are there few programs for physical rehabilitation, but they literally can’t even […]

A few months ago my friend told me that she had a small tumor. The doctor said that it was benign and she could either have it removed with an operation, or try to reduce its size using Chinese medicine. She opted for the Chinese medicine. 3x’s a day for months she drank the thick brown bitter liquid which was distilled from bear bile, birds nests and shark fins. Now I try to keep an open mind about alternative medicine, and I think there are many things in Chinese medicine that have promise for medical applications, this however doesn’t seem to be one of those times. For four months my co-worker wasted her money on this concoction with no results. The sad thing is I […]

This short post comes from a friend living in Inner Mongolia, and is brand new to life in China. I asked her what had surprised her and this was her response. Her and her husband keep a personal blog about their adventures, which can be found here. Spring is in the air, and as I was walking back from class recently I took a deep breath and realized that the smell of urine is also in the air. When I first came to China, public urination surprised me. Now it doesn’t surprise me, but it is one of those mild Chinese irritants. Men and children urinate here, there, and everywhere. I have yet to see a woman assume the squatting position, but every day men […]

A few weeks ago I wrote “Can Culture Be a Problem?” in which I detailed some of the public health problems that are common in China, and how they are at least partially perpetuated by ideas in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This weeks story highlights one of the problems, tuberculosis, and it’s prevalence in China, and that many of the sufferers are not aware that they are carriers of the disease. Not surprisingly, People’s Daily failed to mention that TB is easily spread by spitting. According to one of the doctors at my hospital, China had actually largely eradicated TB just a few decades ago through a large medical campaign. This was done through the creation of large hospitals that specialized in treating this disease. That […]

Yesterday, we looked at some of the banking problems in China. Today we are going to start to see a trend; institutions in China are poorly connected at best. This affects hospitals abilities to effectively treat diseases, and provide responsible treatments. Before we start it is important to understand that China does not have family doctors, almost all of the treatment is provided in a hospital or a small clinic. Hospitals I’ve learned a lot working in a large Chinese hospital. There is no question that China’s medical facilities have improved hugely over the past thirty years. Many of the hospitals have modern equipment and well-trained doctors. The stumbling blocks we’ll be looking at today are caused by the system, and not by individuals (this […]

I was chatting with a friend the other day and realized that a few things. 1) I have a lot of strange conversations about random things, and 2) you might enjoy hearing about them.  So you can expect “conversations” to become regular a feature on the blog. I was just chatting with a German friend who had the chance to help perform a surgery in one of the hospitals a few days ago. Yes, you read that right. It sounds pretty crazy, but at least she is a med student. The surgery itself went fairly well, it was a hemi-colectomy and they removed a good-sized tumor successfully, so you can breathe a bit easier. What was interesting about the conversation was all of the little […]

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