Trip to China gives students a new outlook on public health

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Public and community health students interact with Chinese culture


Jeanette Blain | News Editor | [email protected]

Photos courtesy of Brian Barthel.


Earlier this year, a group of UVU public and community- health students traveled to the Shandong province in China, where they experienced the culture and shared information with local students and professionals.

The group, which consisted of nine students and faculty advisors Brian Barthel and Matt Flint, were invited to Shandong University and Jinan University as a collaboration between UVU and Chinese students.

Barthel said the students had submitted a grant proposal to UVU, which gave them $1500 to help pay for the trip. In exchange, each student was required to give a 20-30 minute presentation to Chinese university students on topics such as air pollution, water quality, STDs and the dangers of tobacco.

After flying into Beijing, the group took a bullet train to Jinan (a city of over 6 million people), where they visited the two universities, the Centers for Disease control and a few local sites.

The Shandong Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Jinan is similar to the CDC in the United States.

Barthel said the visiting students were able to tour the 18-story facility and discuss public health issues with interns working in the field.

“Within 30 minutes, the director of the center greeted us,” Barthel said. “He was kind and engaging. He made us feel like we were significant guests.”

The group also visited a local ginseng farm where the students got to experience the contrast between the modern, upscale city and the realities of rural life in China.

Although it was only 20 miles outside of Jinan, Barthel said the farm was primitive, with buildings made of stones and no running water or other facilities.

“It’s not very sanitary,” Barthel said.

In addition to the planned activities, Barthel said the students had a lot of unexpected interaction with local culture. The 10-day trip coincided with a local holiday, Tomb Sweeping Day which is similar to our Memorial Day. The students were also able to join an Easter Sunday celebration put on by local Christians.

“The people were very welcoming to our students,” Barthel said.

At the end of the trip the students traveled back to Beijing where they were able to tour the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.