Uni­ver­si­ties join to pro­mote pa­tient well­ness

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By LIA ZHU in San Fran­cisco li­azhu@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

A long-term project fo­cused on pre­ven­tion and well-be­ing was re­cently launched in Hangzhou, in East China’s Zhe­jiang Prov­ince, to find so­lu­tions to the world’s grow­ing chronic disease prob­lems.

The Stan­ford Pre­ven­tion Re­search Cen­ter (SPRC) in part­ner­ship with re­searchers at Zhe­jiang Univer­sity launched the project WELL-China this month as part of the cen­ter’s Well­ness Liv­ing Lab­o­ra­tory (WELL) ini­tia­tive.

This project is unique be­cause it em­pha­sizes “well-be­ing” as op­posed to the health­care sys­tem, which fo­cuses on neg­a­tive events rather than pro­mot­ing pos­i­tive at­tributes and hu­man func­tion, ac­cord­ing to Ran­dall Stafford, a pro­fes­sor of medicine at the Stan­ford Univer­sity School of Medicine and di­rec­tor of its pro­gram on pre­ven­tion out­comes and prac­tices.

And it’s eas­ier to mo­ti­vate changes in life­style be­hav­iors when the fo­cus is on in­creas­ing well-be­ing, ac­cord­ing to him.

The project is also unique be­cause it, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with lo­cal gov­ern­ment lead­ers and health­care pro­fes­sion­als, will re­cruit 10,000 peo­ple in Xihu Dis­trict as “ci­ti­zen sci­en­tists” to col­lect a broad range of test data and in­for­ma­tion, said Shankuan Zhu, founder and di­rec­tor of the Chronic Disease Re­search In­sti­tute at Zhe­jiang Univer­sity.

The par­tic­i­pants will not only pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about them­selves, but they’ll also con­trib­ute to the se­lec­tion of top­ics to in­ves­ti­gate.

“More im­por­tantly, the re­search will be taken to the public through this project, and sci­en­tific knowl­edge will be spread more ef­fec­tively among the public,” said Zhu, also vice-dean of the School of Public Health at Zhe­jiang Univer­sity.

By build­ing a co­hort of 10,000 par­tic­i­pants and fol­low­ing them over many years, the re­searchers can learn about changes in their health be­hav­iors.

“We are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in how trends to­ward less phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, less healthy di­ets, al­co­hol use, cig­a­rette smok­ing, more men­tal stress, and worse sleep pat­terns im­pact both well­be­ing and chronic disease,” Stafford said.

This “pop­u­la­tion re­search” is en­hanced by the ex­ten­sive ar­ray of data that will be col­lected to al­low syn­the­sis of in­for­ma­tion on well­be­ing, health be­hav­iors, bioas­says and ge­nomic data, phys­i­cal test­ing and the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment, he said.

WELL-China also in­cor­po­rates an “in­ter­ven­tion re­search” ap­proach by re­cruit­ing some of the par­tic­i­pants to take part in stud­ies that test out var­i­ous new strate­gies for pro­mot­ing and pre­serv­ing well-be­ing.

“These rig­or­ous stud­ies will tell us what ap­proach works best,” Stafford said.

In 2014, the SPRC was awarded fund­ing to sup­port well­ness re­search in an in­ter­na­tional site for its broad WELL ini­tia­tive, and Hangzhou was se­lected as the lo­ca­tion.

“We felt that China pro­vided unique op­por­tu­ni­ties for re­search on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween life­style be­hav­iors, chronic disease and well-be­ing,” said Stafford. “Much of the world is catch­ing up to the US’ chronic disease epi­demic, and in China this is hap­pen­ing rapidly.”

As the world’s most pop­u­lous coun­try, China car­ries a grow­ing bur­den of chronic dis­eases, es­pe­cially heart disease, stroke, cancer, obe­sity and di­a­betes.

Ac­cord­ing to the “2015 re­port on Chi­nese nu­tri­tion and chronic disease”, 533 out of ev­ery 100,000 Chi­nese res­i­dents died from chronic disease in 2012, ac­count­ing for 86.6 per­cent of all deaths.

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