CGI U 2013 at Washington University in St. Louis

China National Quitline

China Quitline

Ting Luo and Mary (Zhi) Wang, graduate students at the Brown School

Brown School students Mary (Zhi) Wang and Susu (Ting) Luo are Chinese nationals who recognized the single most preventable health issue in their native country: smoking.

Currently, one in three of world’s smokers are Chinese, and over 50 percent of Chinese men smoke. It is estimated that by 2020, smoking-related premature deaths in China will surpass 2 million per year. And research shows that although 48.5 million Chinese smokers would like to quit, the majority of them will try to do it on their own.

Wang and Luo would like to change that. What began as a class project in a transdisciplinary problem solving class at the Brown Schol has the two young women trying to help an entire nation quit smoking. “We know smoking is a serious health problem in China — that’s why we took the class in the first place,” Wang says.

The class had learned about the success of quitlines in the United States — a telephone helpline that offers tips and information on how to change behavior. “When CGI U came up, we figured this was a chance to actually make something happen — not just in a class assignment,” Wang says.

The project is ambitious: Its long-term goal is to decrease China’s national smoking prevalence by 1 percent annually. The operation would be located in a hospital in Beijing, and the quitline would be staffed by a team of psychologists, telephone counseling experts, researchers and information specialists. Wang and Luo understand the politics of the situation as well. To avoid censorship from the Chinese government, the program would seek funding from nonprofit organizations.

The duo is looking to CGIU to help ignite the project. “We hope to make connections with people who know people and who are experts in field,” Wang says. “This is a little bit like starting a business. We have the social and scientific knowledge, now we need the business knowledge.”