Despite rapid advances in medicine, the twin tyrannies of ignorance of preventive sanitation and resulting illness still afflict much of rural Asia. Farm families yearn for the benefits of modern medicine as much as anyone, but the cost of most existing treatment facilities and drugs places them beyond the reach of ordinary villagers.
Dr. HSU SHIH-CHU has applied himself to this challenge ever since he completed his internship and graduate studies in public health at Peking Union Medical College in 1934. Organizing a demonstration, self-supporting, community health service in Kiangning County near Nanking in the mid-1930s, training medical officials and combating malaria in West China during the Sino-Japanese War, he was systematically searching for means to make the benefits of modern medicine available to all.
When Dr. HSU became Chief of the Rural Health Division of the Chinese and American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR) in 1948, he gained the scope and means to put his ideas to work. Starting on Taiwan the following year, HSU used JCRR assistance to mobilize public-spirited local leaders in each of 361 districts and townships to establish and support health stations. As tax collection improved, these units became the responsibility of local governments.
Similarly, HSU induced popular cooperation with government health agencies in building village and school water works and latrines, first in public places and then in homes. Also organized were garbage collection and mosquito and fly extermination. To initiate health education for children, JCRR financed two-week training courses for one teacher from each primary school. With this groundwork, mass campaigns eradicated endemic plague from Quemoy Island and rabies, cholera and malaria from Taiwan. Continuing rural services helped control tuberculosis and diphtheria. An index of achievement was the drop in Taiwan?s annual death rate to 6.5 per 1,000, one of the lowest in the world.
A public health doctor alert to farmers' needs, HSU focused upon bringing food processing methods up to international standards. Working with farmers' cooperatives and canneries, he and his staff evolved methods that now allow Taiwan to earn annually over US$31 million from the export of canned mushrooms and US$24 million from canned asparagus. More recently, he assisted farmers and processors in adopting aseptic techniques to launch a new industry of exporting quick-frozen pea pods and other foods.
Long convinced that permanent improvement in rural livelihood would only become possible with effective family planning, HSU has patiently and persistently prodded government institutions and private groups toward such action. Starting with demographic studies and improved vital statistics, his program gradually incorporated maternity and child health with pre-pregnancy health services enabling women to plan births. As a consequence, Taiwan, which supports some 14 million persons on 850,000 hectares of cultivated land, reduced its rate of natural increase from over three percent to about two percent annually over the past six years.
To all these efforts, HSU has brought more than superb professional competence and unstinting effort. He has succeeded consistently in bringing provincial and local government agencies, voluntary groups and villagers themselves together toward the common objective of a healthy, vigorous population.
In electing HSU SHIH-CHU to receive the 1969 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his enthusiastic yet practical role in establishing on Taiwan rural health, sanitation and family planning services that are models for developing nations.