People's News: Nobel Prize winner draws global attention to issues with early childhood development in rural China at international conference co-hosted by REAP and Alibaba
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Reducing tapeworm infection could improve academic performance, reduce poverty, Stanford research suggests
A Stanford-led study in China has revealed for the first time high levels of a potentially fatal tapeworm infection among school-age children. The researchers suggest solutions that could reduce infections in this sensitive age range and possibly improve education outcomes and reduce poverty.
The study, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, focuses on Taenia solium, a tapeworm that infects millions of impoverished people worldwide and can cause a disorder of the central nervous system called neurocysticercosis. The World Health Organization estimates that the infection is one of the leading causes of epilepsy in the developing world and results in 29 percent of epilepsy cases in endemic areas. It is thought to affect about 7 million people in China alone.
A 2016 McKinsey & Company study found that nearly three-quarters of Chinese customers worry that the food they eat is harmful to their health. The vast number of small farms makes China’s food system “almost completely unmanageable in terms of food safety,” says Scott Rozelle, an expert on rural China at Stanford University.
Making matters worse are the millions of children in rural areas who are being raised by their extended families. With their parents working in faraway cities, these children tend to fare much worse in school and on IQ tests. Stanford economist Scott Rozelle has referred to this as an "invisible crisis" in the making: In the coming decades, he estimates, some 400 million underprepared Chinese could be looking for work. His research has touched such a nerve that even state media has given it serious coverage.
Glasses askew and gray hair tousled, Scott Rozelle jumps into a corral filled with rubber balls and starts mixing it up with several toddlers. The kids pelt the 62-year-old economist with balls, and squealing, jump onto his lap. As the battle rages, Rozelle chatters in Mandarin with mothers and grandmothers watching the action.
Elsewhere in this early childhood education center in centralChina, youngsters are riding rocking horses, clambering on a jungle gym, thimbing through picture books, or taking part in group reading. Once a week, caregivers get one-on-one coaching on how to read to toddlers and play educational games. The center is part of an ambitious experiment Rozelle is leading that aims to find solutions to what he sees as a crisis of gargantuan proportions in China: the intellectual stunting of roughly one-third of the population. "This is the biggest problem China is facing that nobody's ever heard about," says Rozelle, a professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Surveys by Rozelle's team have found that more than half of eighth graders in poor rural areas in China have IQs below 90, leaving them struggling to keep up with te fast-paced official curriculum. A third or more of rural kids, he says, don't complete junior high. Factoring in the 15% or so of urban kids who fall at the low end of IQ scores, Rozelle makes a stunning forecast: About 400 million future working-age Chinese, he says, "are in danger of becoming cognitively handicapped."
Following the formulation of the UN’s “sustainable development” goals in 2015, governments worldwide have committed to expanding access to primary care services. Experts believe that primary care can address about 90% of health problems and it has been found to be related to higher life expectancy and lower child mortality rates. However, experts are concerned that a lack of access to primary care and the poor quality of health services will be incapable of meeting the growing burden of chronic illness in poor countries.
The WHO calculated that about 400 million people globally are unable to access “essential health services,” such as antenatal care and treatment for tuberculosis. However, this figure does not take into account the global burden of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Non-communicable diseases are expected to account for over 70% of deaths in developing countries by 2020, but findings from the World Bank and WHO demonstrate that access to treatments for these diseases are severely deficient. For example, it is estimated that more than half of individuals in developing countries with hypertension are not aware they have this condition, and between 24% and 62% of individuals with diabetes do not receive treatment.
"This is the biggest problem that China faces that no one knows about. This is an invisible problem," said Scott Rozelle, co-director of the Rural Education Action Program (REAP) at Stanford University, "China has the lowest levels of human capital (out of all the middle income countries in the world today). China is lower than South Africa, lower than Turkey. We think that's related to when they were babies, they didn't develop well.”
Possibly the single most important of the tensions stoked up by President Trump is the rivalry between the United States and China. Economic strength will be the ultimate determinant of this struggle for the position of Top Nation.
The annual output in China is currently around $10 trillion a year, compared to the $17 trillion in America.
Over the past 30 years, the US grown at an annual average rate of 2.4 per cent, and China by 9.3 per cent.
Hongbin Li, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle, and Binzhen Wu recently published a piece in the Journal of Economic Perspectives particularly worth flagging. It touches on one of the hotter social debates in China over the past few years: whether the massive expansion of college education since 1999 has created an over-supply of graduates, or is just the beginning of the necessary transformation of the education system to meet the needs of a modern economy.
Children in rural areas of China suffer from slow cognitive development due to a lack of proper parenting and nutrition, casting a shadow over the future of the country's economy, a Stanford University study shows.
Scott Rozelle, co-director of the Stanford University Rural Education Action Program (REAP), told Caixin that more than half of the toddlers 24 to 30 months old and about 40% of the infants 6 to 18 months old scored below average in IQ tests. The average IQ score for these age groups should range between 90 to 109.
The Rural Education Action Program (REAP), an impact-evaluation organization, aims to inform sound education, health and nutrition policy in China. Since 2011, REAP’s five randomized controlled trials have shown that quality vision care is the most cost-effective intervention for improving child welfare, and leads to large and sustainable increases in learning and school performance, along with positive spillovers to children who don’t have poor vision.
The US-based startup has partnered with eyewear company Luxottica OneSight to help scale eye care to ten million people in China that do not have access to affordable services. According to research conducted by Stanford University, only one out of six rural children in China has a set of glasses and most rural students have never had an eye exam. The for-profit ran a pilot operation in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences before launching in the provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu, where it distributes low-cost glasses, trains doctors and teachers, and constructs clinics. Teachers can test vision directly in classrooms and use mobile phones to automate patient referrals and prescriptions. Smart Focus argues the nonprofit route would never have been a sustainable or scalable way of helping the number of children that need eye care.
China can improve its higher education system by introducing incentives for students and teachers so they take learning more seriously, a Stanford professor says. Under the current system, college students are essentially guaranteed a diploma, offering little motivation to excel.
The sprawling National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) in China is one of the world’s largest bureaucraies. Its reach spreads from the bustling supercities on China’s eastern seaboard to the remote villages that dot the country’s vast rural interior. For decades, NHFPC oﬃcials had responsibility for enforcing China’s One Child Policy. In their relentless drive to keep fertility low, these oﬃcials sometimes ﬁned noncompliant families into a state of poverty or even subjected women to forced abortion or sterilization procedures.