The Australian Youth Ambassador for Development scheme is a Federal Government program which sends skilled young Australians between the ages of 18 to 30 on three to twelve month assignments in the Asia-Pacific region, specifically to developing countries. It aims to promote capacity building and knowledge development in Australia’s poorest neighbours. The program has expanded over the last ten years to include three intakes a year, each of approximately 200 people. Youth Ambassadors work in a variety of industries including media, education, governance, health, sporting and jurisprudence. Over the last few decades, China?s transformation from a highly centralised, planned economy towards a market-orientated system has brought increased wealth and prosperity to its people. However, rapid economic growth has also had negative consequences such as a widening social gradient, widespread environmental pollution, urban shifts in populations, and changing values and roles in families. In particular, the growing urban-rural divide in China has been recognised by the Communist party as one of the biggest problems for the future well-being of its people, as set out in the recent five-year plan calling for a more harmonious society. From a health sector perspective, this divide is manifest in the low percentage of people in rural areas covered by health insurance, estimated to be at 20%. Those without health insurance must pay for their hospital and clinic visits costs from their own pocket – a very costly exercise indeed for them.
I am working specifically with two studies; INTERACT and QUEST. INTERACT is an international, multicentre, prospective randomised controlled trial assessing the benefit of early intensive blood pressure reduction in the acute phase for intracerebral haemorrhage. It is hoped the results of this trial will guide practitioners in the management of blood pressure in acute intracerebral haemorrhage over the years to come. QUEST is a prospective, observational, multicentre epidemiological study based in China that will attempt to quantify the impact the quality of care for patients after stroke on long-term mortality and disability. QUEST will assist health care decision makers to make a rational and appropriate allocation of health care resources for stroke patients in China. It is important to find economic, feasible and culturally appropriate financing strategies for patients with stroke, especially in a resource-poor setting such as China.
My tenure here finishes late September this year, after which I will return to Sydney to continue my medical training. This will have an important year not only from a career perspective but also from a personal one. Spending a year in a foreign environment such as China is an opportunity to immerse myself in a completely different culture. It is fascinating to observe and assimilate a different way of living and understanding the world, and I fell very lucky to have been given the chance to do so. Even if my Mandarin skills are very poor!!