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Fulbright Award has UC educator examining health challenges in China
Jan 4, 2011 - 5:00:00 AM

The New Year has a University of Cincinnati professor sharing his vast and vital research background on health education in a new location. Randall Cottrell, a UC professor of health promotion and education in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH), is spending the winter and spring academic quarters at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. He says he is one of only two public health educators nationally to receive a Fulbright Scholar Award to explore health education efforts in China and share research about health education programs in the United States.

Cottrell's Fulbright experience will involve teaching a foundations of health education course and a health education behavioral theory course to graduate-level Chinese public health and medical students. He spent months trying to learn Mandarin, but all of his classes will be taught in English, the official second language of China. He will also be accompanied by a Mandarin translator for presentations outside the university.

In addition to teaching, Cottrell's research project will explore cross-cultural comparisons in the health knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of Chinese and U.S. students. He may also be involved in research related to tobacco control and prevention.

Cottrell also visited Beijing, China last May as part of a delegation representing the American Association for Health Education (AAHE), of which he is a past president, and the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), of which he is a past board member. During that visit, he spoke with Chinese high school students.

When we talked with the Chinese students, they said that stress was their greatest health issue, and teachers agreed that there was tremendous pressure put on students to succeed in school, Cottrell says. Students reported that they'd start their school day around 7 a.m. and did not return home until 5 p.m. They were then expected to continue at least four or five hours of study daily at home after school. Some reported having no more than an hour of free time in the day, says Cottrell.

As for the adults, Cottrell says smoking is still the top health issue among Chinese adults, followed by high blood pressure. He says that China also is encouraging health education efforts to combat obesity and HIV. Cottrell will be sharing his expertise on health education programs aimed at preventing negative health behaviors. It also seems like a country that is ripe for health education, so that's a good fit for me. They can use my skills and hopefully, I can contribute and help to some extent, he says.

For me personally, this is an opportunity to learn more about the culture and the health education efforts of one of the most fascinating countries in the world, Cottrell says. It is truly an honor to travel to another country to share my knowledge, love and enthusiasm for the health education profession. He will also be spending his Fulbright experience in China with his wife, Karen, who is on leave as a health education teacher for the Lakota School District.

Cottrell has written textbooks on stress management, weight control, foundations of the profession and most recently, research methods.

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. The program operates in more than 155 countries.

Cottrell joined the faculty at the University of Cincinnati in 1987. His two sons, Kory and Kyle, are both alumni of the UC College of Business.

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