Hong Kong – Emily Chan, professor at The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), is found more often in disaster-devastated areas than in air-conditioned offices and lecture theatres. Post-quake Nepal was one place where she carried out her fieldwork. The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau is just one of the remote areas where she gave lessons on health to her students or the local inhabitants.
She heads the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC), a non-profit research centre focusing on the research, training and knowledge transfer of disaster and medical humanitarian response. The centre, as a joint effort of the two renowned universities, is highly regarded for its effort to mitigate the impact of disasters in Asia, the most populous continent which is frequently ravaged by natural disasters.
Professor Chan says: “Most of our effort is evidence-based international collaborative research on disaster preparedness of high-risk areas, namely, Asian villages on the earthquake belts and in flood high-risk areas. When these areas are struck, we will provide technical support in the medical and public health aspects. We will also review the level of disaster preparedness in the communities affected.”
Professor Chan has led the CCOUC team to remote villages in mainland China for health-related and disaster-relief research and services. Her work has filled the void of technical knowledge and risk literacy in disaster relief. The voluminous research results, case studies and policy guidelines she produced over the years on disaster preparedness and response planning, disaster epidemiology, and climate change and health, might have helped relieve the physical as well psychological suffering of numerous lives in distraught.
The impacts of Professor Chan’s work are real and substantial, though not easily tabulated or translated into citation indices. As well as physical first aid training to manage and reduce injuries and morbidities from natural disasters, her team has also provided psychological first aid training to aid workers to better equip them for helping the disaster victims. Their analyses have shown that health education campaigns in disaster preparedness can empower the rural communities to engage in self-help and household-based preparedness. On the policy level, the management models they developed can be applied by local governments and policymakers to minority communities in the remote parts of China.
Professor Chan’s good deeds have global and far-reaching impacts. She and her team at CCOUC have developed and been offering an interactive, postgraduate level, free-of-charge online course “Public Health Principles in Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response” since May 2014. As of July 2016, the programme is in its fifth cohort with an international enrolment of almost 4,000 students and practitioners in disaster medicine, disaster public health and humanitarian studies from six continents.
In recognition of her leadership in disaster and humanitarian relief as well as her contributions to education and research in the field, Professor Chan has been named “Leader of the Year 2015” by Sing Tao News Corporation, the holding company of a major newspaper in Hong Kong.