Over the past decades, migrants around the world continue to risk their lives to cross borders through land or sea routes in an effort to escape economic disparities, violent conflicts, and natural disasters. Emerging threats for pandemics, such as Ebola, MERS, Zika virus, and influenza virus also continue to challenge the global coalition on health and humanitarian aid. As global leaders, China and the United States have a shared interest in engaging these challenges, for their own citizens and for the world.
On May 14 and 15, 2018, the U.S.-China Research Group on Global Health and Migration, convened by Dr. Jennifer Bouey of Georgetown University in collaboration with Dr. Cheng Feng of Tsinghua University, held its fourth and final meeting at Georgetown University. Part of the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues, the two-day event brought together migration and global health experts from the United States, China, and Europe for a continued dialogue around key academic and policy issues relating to pandemic preparedness, the cross-national movement of peoples, and challenges they pose for national health systems. During the two days of meetings, the group presented their research to the wider Georgetown and Washington community, and concluded their meetings with a visit and briefing at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law Center.
Panels Discuss Challenges in Healthcare Delivery, Pandemic Preparedness, and Funding
On May 14, the research group shared findings from their collaborative research over the past two years and engaged the public in a wider dialogue on global health and migration issues. The public research workshop featured three panels of speakers around the topics of migrants and health services, pandemic preparedness and response, and funding for global health and global health security.
Professors Jennifer Bouey (Georgetown University), Hao Yuantao (Sun Yat-sen University), Gu Jing (Sun Yat-sen University), and Elanah Uretsky (Brandeis University) examined the healthcare needs of migrants and refugees and the best models for response in the first panel discussion, drawing examples from African migrants in China, rural-to-urban domestic migration in China, and a case study on migrant women’s health along the Myanmar border. Guest speaker Professor Zhang Weihong (Ghent University) also shared her research on a comparative study of reproductive health services among immigrant women in China and Belgium. The second panel focused on the challenges in protection against the transmission of infectious diseases that disproportionately affect people on the move. Professors Zhang Linqi (Tsinghua University) and Mike Stoto (Georgetown University) discussed tracking and management of avian influenza and Zika virus and the challenges of developing vaccines in a timely manner. The workshop’s third panel featured Professors Cheng Feng (Tsinghua University) and Rebecca Katz (Georgetown University) in a discussion on the changing paradigm of global health development aid funding in the United States and China and potentially useful web-based tools to track the funding.
Several studies on migrant health and pandemic preparedness used Guangdong Province in China as a case study site. With collaboration from Sun Yat-Sen University and Guangdong Provincial Center for Diseases Control (CDC), the research group examined migration patterns and the public health implications for Africans in Guangzhou city and the current surveillance and response system focused on the H7N9 influenza virus. As one of China's important sea transportation hubs, channels of communication, and major foreign trade ports, Guangdong is critical to China’s international development strategy, globalized economy, and its development of marine industries.
“The health systems side of pandemic preparedness in Guangdong could be of great
interest to Europe and the United States—to see what they have done and look at the evidence as to what works,” Dr. Jennifer Bouey commented. “Understanding Guangdong’s public health system, disease surveillance, and assessment systems could have a global impact. [For example,] Guangdong’s experience with implementing disease control efforts in wet markets and poultry farms would be very interesting to southeast Asian countries that have similar cuisine,” Bouey added.
Connecting Research with Policy
As a key component of the research dialogue, policy briefings provide group participants opportunities to share their research with policy stakeholders in both the United States and China, and to receive stakeholder feedback for a better understanding of priorities in the current bilateral collaboration in global health. During the past two years of research group meetings, the group has visited the Gates Foundation in Beijing, the U.S. Embassy in China, the Guangdong CDC, and community clinics in Guangzhou. They also had chance to exchange views with policymakers and practitioners in CDC agencies and other public health institutions in Washington.
The research group’s collaborative work demonstrates a feasible and effective model for multi-discipline and multi-center projects. Since the inauguration of the workshop, three faculty in the United States and China obtained funding from separate sources to collect and analyze healthcare data among African migrants in Guangzhou. The research group is working together on several manuscripts on a variety of topics, such as “Pandemic Surveillance and Response System in Guangdong Province: a case study of responses to H7N9,” “Barriers to health care services access among African migrants in Guangzhou,” and “Health status of cross-border travelers in Guangzhou.” In January 2018, a paper on “China’s Emerging Role in Global Health” was published in the influential Global Health Blog by three scholars in the research group as part of their collaborative work. In August 2017, a paper on China’s engagement with development assistance for health in Africa was published in Global Health Research and Policy, co-authored by Bouey and Cheng with colleagues from Tsinghua University.
In the coming months, the research group members will finalize their research papers and continue to analyze data and publish their work. The group plans to continue the collaboration through conferences and joint research in emerging areas of mutual interest. The research group’s webpage offers updates on their work, as well as links to their publications and blogs.