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On World Cancer Day, Project HOPE highlights new methods of care for young cancer patients in China

Millwood, Virginia, February 3, 2012

On World Cancer Day, global NGO Project HOPE says a growing corps of medical social workers in China is helping families deal with traumatic stress caused by the rising trend of childhood cancer in China.

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide and the World Health Organization estimates that 84 million people will die of cancer between 2005 and 2015 without intervention. The vast majority of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and, in China, an estimated 45,000 new cases of pediatric cancer occur each year.

Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian assistance organization, has partnered with the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center(SCMC) to develop a program to train medical social workers, a relatively new specialty in China’s health care system to help families navigate the painful journey of cancer therapy in the hospital and at home.  

“Our goal is to empower parents by helping them acquire the skills that will give them the strength and endurance to face all challenges that may occur throughout the cancer treatment process,  said Dr. Ji QinYing, Director of the Social Worker Department at SCMC.  

World Cancer Day 2012

Dr. Ji says parent education is the driving force that empowers families to take care of their sick children during the lengthy chemotherapy process.  Individual consultations and group therapy led by social workers enable families to share experiences and learn ways to support children with cancer.  Dr. Ji says that by encouraging parents to express raw and painful emotions in group therapy, parents will enhance their communication skills with their children and improve their understanding of the child’s needs and the cancer treatment.  

Lily Hsu, Program Director for Project HOPE in Shanghai, says social workers at SCMC engage in therapy activities with young patients which are compiled into an activity booklet and shared with other patients.  Ms. Hsu says medical social workers are relatively new members of the health professional team and HOPE’s program has offered good opportunities for professionals in this specialty to obtain firsthand experience.  

“Chinese society definitely needs more social workers in the medical field to support patients and their families through the difficulty of hospitalization.  The multidisciplinary health care approach is an emerging trend in China’s health care delivery system.  Social workers  can help hospitals and community based caregivers to pay more attention to each patient and the family’s needs during a medical crisis, and also reduce the burden on the clinical nurses and doctors on the frontlines of medical care in China,” said Ms. Hsu.

Honored as one of the nation’s top ten social workers in 2011 by China’s Social Worker Association, Dr. Ji QinYing says community health centers will play a bigger role in medical care in the future.  

World Cancer Day

“China is promoting family medicine practices at the community level. This means a family physician will take care of a few families in the neighborhood, while the role of social worker will enhance the communication and assistance with the families, especially those who need extra social support and resources,” said Dr. Ji.

HOPE has provided overseas training for SCMC to learn the most modern techniques in social work.  Training was conducted at the renowned St. Judes Children’s Hospital in the United States, and HOPE also invited experienced medical social workers from other leading U.S. pediatric health institution and academia to conduct lecture for social workers at SCMC. The role modeling from SCMC’s social worker network and overseas training that HOPE facilitated allowed staff to develop a keen understanding of the essence of the social worker’s role.

“Project HOPE programs in cancer care, critical care, nutrition support provide opportunities for SCMC social workers to do things that are truly meaningful for parents and children,” Ms. Hsu said.

Project HOPE-trained social workers at SCMC are also active in clinical consultation, identifying social resources and networks useful to patients and their families, as well as helping families apply for financial resources.  They also alleviate the stress of the child’s interrupted studies at school by inviting teachers to support students who are undergoing cancer treatment at the hospital, effectively expanding health education into the wider community.  

SCMC social worker, Chen Yuting says some non-medical methods also work wonders in putting a smile on the face of a brave cancer patient.  

“We have taken children who are in stable condition on a half day field trips to Science Museum World Expo site, and to USA and Red Cross Pavilion during the World Expo in 2011.  And the kids love celebrities!  We have had visits from Yao Ming and Olympic Champion Liu Xiang, the NBA dream team and others. These experiences lifted the kids’ spirits and helped the children forget about needles and medication for a little while. The smiles on the childrens’ faces in these moments make all of our efforts worthwhile, said Ms. Chen.

For over 25 years, Project HOPE has been addressing some of China’s most urgent health issues, such as children’s heart defects, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and medical training.  Thanks to a $1 million USD grant from the HOSPIRA Foundation, Project HOPE and SCMC are addressing the growing medical demands to combat cancer, while enhancing SCMC’s capacity in cancer diagnosis, treatment and research to become a leader in pediatric cancer care in Asia.

Project HOPE is active across many fronts in the battle against cancer. In Central and Eastern Europe,  HOPE has implemented programs aimed at improving the quality of life of cancer patients and their treatment by coordinating medical and psycho-social care in hospitals in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.

According the World Health Organization, deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue to rise to over 13.1 million in 2030. World Cancer Day is marked annually on February 4, and led by the International Union Against Cancer, a global consortium of 350 organizations committed to raising awareness and encouraging cancer prevention, detection and treatment in over 100 countries.

Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health problems with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now provides medical training and health education, and conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 35 countries.

Media Contact

Geraldine Carroll   Tel. 540.257.3746  gcarroll@projecthope.org