Globally, China is the most naturally disaster-prone country, and its rural population faces the highest natural disaster risk.
Q: Could you tell us about the over all aims of the Centre for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response?
EC: We have an acronym for the centre - CCOUC. The target is to use evidence-based methodology, like disaster epidemiology, and some interventions to understand what the best way is to deal with disaster, and to study disaster, in areas of the world in which probably, at the moment, there is a major gap in the knowledge.
Q: Why did you choose to collaborate with the University of Oxford?
EC: We started to work with Oxford in 2007 when a funding opportunity came along for a climate change and health study in urban settings, and we started working with Professor Jeremy Farrar who became a very important partner for us. The platform that we managed to build while doing the climate change-related research led us to think that potentially, if we wanted to do more, we should expand the topic into disaster response because, as we all know, with climate change there will be more disaster and, in Asia, which hosts 85% of disasters and 75% of global economic loss, its probably a good expansion platform to do more. And given the fact that Oxford is a good platform that supports innovation and creative research - as long as it's scientifically sound – to solve human health-related problems, we decided that we should start a centre with a focus in disaster and medical humanitarian response.
答：我們於2007年開始與牛津大學合作，與Jeremy Farrar 教授開展一項有關城市地區氣候變化與健康的科研項目。在建設這個與氣候變化有關的研究平台期間，我們發現如想為人類健康於氣候變化的影響下作出更多貢獻，不得不把研究範圍延伸至災難救援領域。我們把研究定位在亞洲，因百分之八十五的災難發生在該區，經濟損失亦佔全球總數的百分之七十五。眾所周知，氣候變化將帶來更多災難，亞洲更會首當其衝。從過去的合作中，我們知道牛津十分支持創新與前瞻性的科研，因此決定成立這個災害與人道救援研究所，開展有關工作，用科學解決人類健康問題。
Q: How is climate change affecting your research?
EC: Being someone who is interested in the human health impact of disaster, climate change is definitely a topic that we need to focus on because we know that the impact of climate change is enormous to populations in urban settings, for instance in places like Hong Kong and Tokyo, these are locations where it is highly densely populated and there are enormous inequalities in the city in terms of health outcomes. There's only a very limited amount known about the human health impact of climate change in those environments, so, as a result, the direction of research has to be - for the 21st Century - how climate change is impacting population, and most importantly of all, how the disasters associated with climate change may be affecting public health systems, service delivery, disaster patterns, and, most importantly of all, human health outcomes.
Q: Can you tell us about your research in rural Chinese villages?
EC: We have this programme called the 10 Village Ethnic Minority Project in China, essentially how it started was that in 2009 we received this need of support to engage in disaster relief in rural communities in an area, essentially it's the origin of the Yangtze river, and at that juncture what happened is that we venture into the village 9 months post-disaster, we realised that there is technically no reconstruction because the resources are not there, they are ethnic minority groups and a lot of policy doesn't reach them, so what we did is of course we help with the medical response and, in the course of the response, we actually realised there is a lot of things that can be done in those communities. So since then, together with the staff, the students, with our collaborators, we decided to build a programme that looks into what is the best way to provide the support and to 'knowledge transfer' our technical knowledge and scientific findings to local communities, Since then we have been building project sites in remote areas of China with the criteria of them being ethnic minority-based (non-Han Chinese) and in extreme poverty (less than 1.25 dollars per person per household), and most important of all is that they are disaster-prone communities. We usually work them for 24 months and we make use of the technical basis of the disaster epidemiology and interventions that were evidence-based in terms of how you deliver health messages in communities where literacy level is very low, and we work with them, so we empower them with methodology we believe would enhance their response to disaster, response capacity, and then we chart the impact for those communities; the disaster preparedness is at least 40% increased and also there's a major self-efficacy improvement of what they should do to protect their own health, and also the disaster outcomes. And as of now we are planning to do another 5 sites in other plans of china over the next two years.
Q: Has this less to any conclusions about disaster epidemiology? How does your research fit into translational medicine within the department?
EC: Disaster Epidemiology is one of the best public health medical tools to understand, analyse, and put together evidence-based intervention to help medicate the adverse impact of disaster for population. You need to apply this knowledge but, from our research in rural communities in climate change and disaster response, we realised that if we manage and train people on this particular methodology and potentially devise new ways to apply this methodology through research it's the best way to support communities to improve their response, policy-making, and most important of all, get our scientists into the field to do something useful to improve the being of our population.
Q: What are the centre's plans for the future?
EC: I think the team who join and engage in disaster-related research, at the end of the day what they are trying to do is to be able to do more for populations who are affected by disasters and humanitarian crises. What we aim to do is to take the opportunity to do more research to understand what's happened to the population, and hopefully, through that, devise some good approaches to address their needs. Second of all it's a good platform, for people interested, to solve very difficult problems, technical problems in the field with scientific methodologies, so we hope that this centre provides a platform for scientists to join us to look at this challenge for human beings in the 21st century. And last but not least, we take this as an opportunity to train up our students because we honestly believe that our students will have these multiple effects in the future, they are the ones who are going to bring the knowledge and expand it in the field of study, and honestly from my point of view anyone who is interested to do work related to public health and medicine, they should always at least have some exposure of how they should respond and put together scientific evidence in the crises or extreme setting because that is the best way to see how well you know your stuff.