It’s Hot in China

@font-face { font-family: “MS 明朝”; }@font-face { font-family: “MS 明朝”; }@font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; }.MsoChpDefault { font-family: Cambria; }div.WordSection1 { page: WordSection1; }Hi! It’s been a whirlwind trip and I have a lot to catch up on! A lot of blogs (and Facebook) are censored (blocked) in China so I’ve had to use the school VPN to access certain sites. As such, these blog entries were written while I was in China but I didn’t want to post them there since I’ve heard stories of people’s seemingly harmless blogs being removed. For the next couple of weeks, I will post my entries one by one, but I’ll let you know when they were written.

Written on August 1, 2011:

Hi from China! Or, I guess I should say “nǐ hǎo.” First, let me just start by giving a quick introduction of my project and background on Beijing. I’ll be assessing air pollution beliefs and attitudes among pregnant women in Beijing, China. My advisor, Dr. Jim Zhang in the Biostatistics department, is collecting data for his project to assess the correlation between air pollution exposure during pregnancy and adverse birth outcomes. My project will be an offshoot of this main project but has very little to do with actual data collection and analysis. Basically, I’m interested in understanding how pregnant women in Beijing view air pollution and whether or not they’re concerned about its health effects during their pregnancy. To do this, I will be conducting a short survey (~50 questions) among pregnant women in Beijing.

To give you an idea of what I’m working with here, you might need to have a little background information on Beijing. With a population of almost 20 million as of 2010, China’s capital city is one of the most populous cities in the world. Air quality has long been an issue in Beijing, and the government is taking steps to address this problem. A joint American and Chinese study in 2006 found that much of the city’s pollution comes from the areas surroundingit. Before and during the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese government billions of US dollars to attempt to improve the city’s air quality. More recently, the Chinese government has taken a strong stance on smoking and secondhand smoke by banning smoking inside buildings. This is an unprecedented and laudable policy since tobacco sales are State-controlled and China supplies about 30% of the world’s tobacco. Despite this great public health leap forward, many question the efficacy of the ban and wonder how and if it will be enforced. Indeed, since coming here, tobacco smoke seems omnipresent. Whether I’m sitting in a restaurant, walking down a street, or outside the Beijing Maternal and Children’s Hospital, there is the unmistakable smell of tobacco smoke if not actual cigarette smoke being blown in my face.

On the bright side, there is evidence of a growing awareness and improvements in this area are visible. While in a swanky shopping mall, I saw “No Smoking” signs in the restroom, and I’ve seen anti-smoking messages elsewhere—for example, at Subway. Granted, the shopping mall is known for having more foreigners than Chinese people, and Subway isn’t exactly a Chinese enterprise, but these types of messages were nonexistent when I was in China in 2007, and I believe they are a sign of more improvements to come.

Here’s a photo from being a tourist last week in Beijing’s Art District, called 798. Notice the lack of blue skies. This is what the sky always looks like in Beijing.