Last week, the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health published a study based on data from the 2008 National Health Services Survey of China, which found that falls in the home are the leading cause of injury among elderly in China.
The findings in of themselves are not the kind of thing that will make the front page of a major newspaper, but the study is an example of quite a remarkable trend.
To wit, China’s demographic data was simply not complete enough a decade ago to lend researchers the opportunity to discover trends as minute as how and where the elderly are most likely to hurt themselves. The better we understand a society’s ills — how her people eat and live, how they die — the better we are able to contextualize the impact of governance systems and political regimes.
Just thinking out loud now…for all the talk of a Twitter revolution in Iran last summer, the power of 140 characters is only strong enough to continue fanning the flames of an already stoked fire. A lasting movement — whether it be one of moderate ideology or something more akin to revolution — needs the power of deep-seeded ideas, and this is best done by increasing knowledge in a society.
Knowledge of healthcare is particularly well suited to the task of bringing about positive societal change. There is the immediate benefit of such knowledge to empower individuals, families, and communities to make choices that will improve their well-being and, in some cases, considerably lengthen life. The less obvious benefit is that developed healthcare systems and increased public awareness of public health lead to a shift in the nature of political discourse. Regimes – democratic, tyrannical, or what have you – are forced to change because the stated and expressed priorities of the people are also now changed.
We are seeing in today’s China how a population more in tune with their healthcare needs is placing ever-louder pressure on the government to create better hospitals, clamp down on corruption in the medical fraternity, and even make the environment a littler greener. This is not being done through a network of foreign NGO’s or through the editorials of foreign newspapers. It is happening from the within private homes, and through dialog within Chinese families. Knowledge has been and always will be the truest catalyst of change.