The Challenge of Understanding and Meeting the Social Service Needs of the Vulnerable Populations in China

Sunday, January 18, 2015: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Balconies I, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: International Social Work and Global Issues
Symposium Organizer:
Julian Chow, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Qingwen Xu, PhD, Tulane University
Increasingly, China is grappling with many of the same problems facing other developing and transitional countries, but without the resources to initiate innovative solutions. China’s rapid economic expansion, transition to a market economy, and privatization and decentralization of its public welfare system has led to major societal challenges. These include a burgeoning older population, migrant worker parents leaving children behind, healthcare inequities, and increasing mental illness. Consequently, social work scholars and professionals are facing strong challenges to develop an effective social service delivery system in China.

However, most of the literature on China to date focuses on conceptualizing the welfare system or documenting the condition of social issues. Little is known about how social service planning and practice respond to these challenges. The purpose of this symposium is to improve the social work knowledge base by providing empirical evidence on the social service needs confronting China.

An estimated 61 million Chinese children have had lived apart from their parents while growing up. The first paper explores how the migration experiences and the availability of social capital influenced the mental health status of these children. Results of a structural equation modeling analysis indicate that not all left-behind children are alike. To be effective, social services must take unique migration experiences into consideration and help develop the necessary support system for children, families, and neighborhoods.

The second paper examines healthcare use among older adults with depression. Using survey data from a national representative sample of respondents aged 45 and older, analyses of Poisson and logistic regression indicate that the presence of depression symptoms was positively associated with outpatient health service utilization at Chinese medicine hospitals, community healthcare centers, village clinics, and private clinics. Service delivery would benefit from an integrated primary and behavioral healthcare system.

Today’s China is split into two worlds: one urban and one rural. Despite recent efforts by the government to improve healthcare access, disparities in service use persist. In the third paper, analyses using random-intercept multilevel models from a large representative sample indicate that rural residents were less likely to use both health and preventive care than their urban counterparts. Community engagement, outreach, and education may increase healthcare utilization.

The current public service infrastructure is far behind in catching up with the rapidly growing elderly population in China, which is projected to have 630 million people over age 50 by 2050. The fourth paper explores the relationship between resource management and preparation for elderly care. Surveying 516 one-child parents in Shanghai, this study shows that resource management could lead to improved elderly care planning, suggesting the importance of knowledge development through health information and education services.

These papers collectively provide strong empirical evidence to inform social service planning and practice, and help build the capacity of the public and non-governmental service providers to meet the needs of vulnerable populations in China across the life spectrum.

* noted as presenting author
Healthcare Utilization of Older Adults in China with Depression Symptoms
Carol J. Peng, MSW, University of California, Berkeley
Chinese One-Child Parents' Resource Management and Future Care Planning
Yajun Olivia Song, MSSc, University of Hong Kong; Elsie Yan, PhD, The University of Hong Kong
See more of: Symposia