HIGHLIGHTS

  • As Chief of the Rural Health Division of the Chinese and American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction in 1948, he learned to mobilize local leaders to establish and support health stations in more than 360 districts.
  • He also mobilized mass campaigns that eradicated rabies, cholera and malaria as well as campaigns for continuing rural services that controlled tuberculosis and diphtheria. This led to Taiwan’s achieving the lowest annual death rates in the world.
  • Hsu Shih-Chu worked with farmers’ producers and canneries to bring to standards their food processing methods, which resulted in successful food exportation and Taiwan’s million-dollar earnings.
  • He pushed government and private groups to advocate for family planning through a program that gradually incorporated maternity and child health with pre-pregnancy health services.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his enthusiastic yet practical role in establishing Taiwan’s rural health, sanitation and family planning services that are models for developing nations.”

 CITATION

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 al1.

When Dr. HSU became Chief of the Rural Health Division of the Chinese and American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction 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.

 RESPONSE

I am highly honored to have been named the recipient of the 1969 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service.

I try to follow the teaching of Lao Tze, an ancient Chinese philosopher, to achieve without claiming credit for oneself. Now the Ramon Magsaysay Award is giving me credit that I can accept only as a representative of my medical profession, my organization, and my colleagues. The Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction, of which I have been a member for 21 years, is a unique organization. It functions to improve the living condition of the people and to assist other government organizations without claiming any share of the credit. Because of these qualities, it is trusted and welcomed both by the people and government organizations at all levels in the Republic of China.

The scope of medicine and health is expanding from the curative, preventive, and promotional phases to include village health improvement and community development, family planning and food processing. Through the application of modern medical methods, the annual crude death rate in Taiwan, China, has been brought down to 6.5 per 1,000 and the expectation of life at birth in 1967 reached 64.1 years for males and 68.4 for females. Now our effort is to bring down the high birth rate; we aim to change the population pattern from that of developing countries with high birth rates and low death rates to that of advanced countries with low birth rates and low death rates. Both the public and the government in the Republic of China now believe that family planning is a measure important for socioeconomic development and for a happy family life.

Taiwan has also entered a new stage of initiating a planned change in its rural areas on a village basis, making the villages improve progressively. To achieve the objective requires both teamwork in health and other fields, and teamwork between government agencies and the people.

National key leaders with wisdom are important assets of a country. Men are richly endowed with potential wisdom often hidden by selfishness; wisdom emerges only when men become selfless. The life of the late President Ramon Magsaysay has set an illuminating example for people to develop leadership with selfless devotion. The Ramon Magsaysay Award is the unique instrument for continuously reflecting his greatness and ideals.

 BIOGRAPHY

HSU SHIH CHU was destined to grow up knowing hardship and war. He was born on May 5, 1906 in Tachiao, Fenghua Hsien (County), Chekiang Province in imperial Manchu China. His parents were poor, hardworking silk workers. During his early school years the established order fell before the revolution against the Ch’ing Dynasty and the attempts to establish a modern republic. He attended medical college to the accompaniment of continuing civil war and the invasion of China by the Japanese. Joining the public health service during the latter part of this period, he worked on health problems as World War II raged around him. Finally he retreated with the Nationalist Government to the island province of Taiwan where as Chief of the Rural Health Division of the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction he was to make his international reputation. Through all these years of turmoil and bloodletting HSU maintained his optimism, his sense of service and a dedication to ameliorating the health problems of the Chinese people.

HSU attended the American mission Ningpo Baptist Middle School. In 1926 he was sure enough of his own principles to stand aside from his classmates during a city-wide student strike. “I refused to go with them,” he wrote. “I think I saw further than they did. I knew politics could not solve my country’s problems—only science could really help.” But he was an astute enough politician to persuade the Communist student leaders not to destroy the school. As a result Baptist Middle was the only missionary or government school in the area to remain intact.

Graduating that year, HSU enrolled at the Medical College of Cheeloo Christian University in Tsinan. He went on a scholarship—which he later repaid in full—from the American mission hospital, Ningpo Hwa Mei. While there HSU was inspired by a young American medical missionary, Dr. Susan S. Waddell, who later became his wife. It was she who encouraged him to specialize in public health in order to improve the well-being of large numbers of people instead of just a few private patients.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)