December 27, 2011
Doctoral student, Nutrition
Sanofi/UNC Global Nutrition Scholar
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.
According to the World Health Organization:
- 346 million people worldwide have diabetes.
- In 2004, an estimated 3.4 million people died from consequences of high blood sugar.
- More than 80 percent of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
- Diabetes deaths are expected to double between 2005 and 2030.
- Healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Victor Zhong’s interest in public health was triggered by a national catastrophe. A destructive 8.0-magnitude earthquake occurred in China’s Sichuan province on May 12, 2008, killing more than 86,000 people.
“My strong compassion and sense of responsibility were stimulated when I heard that public health and reconstruction work required more volunteers,” Zhong says. Despite the risks from frequent aftershocks, he organized a voluntary service team of eight undergraduates and went to affected areas to provide assistance.
He is most proud of a statistical analysis he and his group conducted from first-hand data in the field and the subsequent submission of proposals to local governments. Some of the proposals, such as sterilizing water regularly and giving sufficient first aid, were adopted.
“Using our professional knowledge, we found out the weakness in government’s public health work and made contributions to earthquake-affected areas. I was so impressed by the power of scientific research and its role in improving people’s health that I decided to devote myself to public health research in the future,” Zhong says.
Upon his return to school at Tongji Medical College, he worked as a research assistant in the public health school’s Department of Nutrition and Food Hygiene to gain research experience. He was attracted there by a project about diabetes, an illness from which a dear friend was suffering.
“Diabetes undoubtedly has become a worldwide epidemic and a leading threat to human health and development,” Zhong says. “The world calls for more people to join the battle against diabetes, taking up the challenge as a lifetime career. I am one of them.”
Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit www.sph.unc.edu/cph.