Blog Post

Nutrition and migration in China

Due to urban growth and development, rural Chinese are migrating to urban areas for improved economic opportunity. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, there were ~131 million rural to urban migrants at the end of 2008 (most likely over 200 million now), representing over ten percent of China’s total population. Women of childbearing years characterize more than one-third of these workers. Pregnant women will many times choose to deliver their child in their natal township and return to work in the city post-partum in order to provide needed income to their family. Children of migrant women are often left behind in their natal village with grandparents as caregivers when the mother migrates. How these infants are fed when the mother is not available to breastfeed, as well as the decision making process surrounding infant feeding remains unexplored.

Healthcare costs and economic development have been accelerating concurrently in China in recent decades. Economic and social shifts have affected childhood nutritional status both positively (deaths from malnutrition have fallen) and negatively (morbidity from obesity is increasing). The intersections of these events have not been studied in depth. There is a gap between understanding and research facing China; there are simply too few people who know what questions to ask or design studies that will improve nutritional programs and policies. It has proven challenging for Chinese public health advocates to promote better infant feeding practices, as they are not aware of what current practices are.

Broadly, I am interested in 3 main areas:

1) How does maternal migration affect nutritional status in children under 5?
2) How has economic development affected the nutritional status of children in urban areas?
3) Does China’s development model of increasing consumption lead to increased morbidity from non-communicable disease associated with obesity in children?

In order to answer these questions, I am pursuing a PhD at Cornell University in Nutrition, focusing on nutritional policy and applied economics. I have a background in Anthropology (BA '02, MA '08) and Nutrition (BA '05), but hope to expand my quantitatve skills during my PhD. I also hope to develop a deeper connection with on-line connection and media; migrants often utilize on-line communities to keep in touch with friends and family, and this is an area I have yet to explore in depth. I am excited to be a part of HASTAC's community of scholars, and feel free to contact me at Lw495@cornell.edu.

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