Tzu Chi University Sponsors International Symposium to Explore the University’s Role in Health Promotion

Tzu Chi University is 12th in the University Impact Rankings 2022’s SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) 3: Good health and well-being. How does the University fulfill its responsibilities and attend to the people’s needs in Hualien, Taiwan, and overseas? On November 4, 2022, Tzu Chi University held a symposium entitled “The New Role of Health Promoting University in the Era of SDG and USR (University Social Responsibility).” People attended in person or online. Tzu Chi University invited Professor Didier Jourdan, Chair holder of the UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education and Head of the WHO Collaborating Center for Research in Education & Health. Moreover, he is a Professor on the Faculty of Education of Université Clermont-Auvergne in France. The University also invited professors from Dong Hwa University and Tzu Chi University, who have long been involved in community health services, to share their experiences.

Professor Kun-Ruey Shieh, deputy dean of the College of Medicine, welcomed all distinguished speakers to provide their new perspectives and share valuable opinions. Professor Shieh said that Tzu Chi University started as the Tzu Chi College of Medicine in 1994. To encourage faculty members and students to initiate various health promotion-related education and activities, the University has collaborated with Tzu Chi Foundation, Tzu Chi hospitals, the government, and other NGOs. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University developed COVID-19 Antibody Detection Kits and donated them to countries, such as Indonesia, Honduras, Bolivia, and Cambodia to assist in epidemic prevention, which is one of the SDG 3missions.

A good physician tries to prevent diseases from occurring. Shinn-Zong Lin, superintendent of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, shared in his speech that Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital is currently studying environmental influence on genes and diseases, and how to use these data to help health promotion. He looks forward to working with experts and scholars from educational and healthcare institutions for the health of humanity.

Shu-Li Chia, deputy director of the Health Promotion Administration, said that the generation gap in Taiwan is getting bigger. The National Health Administration has worked with Tzu Chi University to enable college students to visit the community to understand the elderly’s needs and know how to take care of them. In the future, she looks forward to establishing standard operating procedures with Tzu Chi University, so that more college students can attend to the needs of the elderly. Tzu Chi University has a College of Medicine and a College of Education and Communication. Chia-Hsiang Chu, director of the Hualien County Health Bureau, expressed gratitude to the University for helping share the government’s healthcare policies with the public and introducing information about enhancing people’s well-being. Hualien people feel good about it, and for the government, it is essential to promoting a healthy society.

Professor Didier Jourdan, of the Faculty of Education, Université Clermont-Auvergne, is a well-known expert worldwide and scholar in the field of health education, and is also Chair holder of the UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education. At the beginning of his speech, Professor Jourdan pointed out that climate change impacts infectious diseases and challenges global health, including changing demographics.

How can universities fulfill their responsibilities in facing these challenges? Professor Jourdan emphasized that USR does not only focus on charity. Due to market orientation and economic considerations in university courses, how can we find a balance between charity and economic considerations? Professor Jourdan suggested the four pillars of USR: community participation, social commitment, sustainable development, and shared governance. Universities should change their mentalities by sharing their existing resources with communities and helping communities to be better. Only when everyone gets better can society be better.

Professor Yin-Wei Wang spoke on the topic “Global Development on Health Promotion.” Professor Wang shared that the first International Health Promotion Conference was held by WHO in Ottawa, Canada, in 1986. Health promotion then expanded to promote healthy universities. He also introduced the current status of promoting a healthy society in Taiwan and its challenges.

Tzu Chi University won the 2021 Excellent University Award on Health Promotion. Professor Wen Huei-Jhen Wen, dean of Student Affairs, told everyone that the Office of Student Affairs sponsors many activities to help students develop good health habits. The University also attends to the needs of the elderly by founding a Senior Health Hub, offering many fun exercise courses, and leading elderly people to exercise in the classes. The elderly can choose try-out courses (free of charge), short-term or long-term. As a result, they have enhanced their physical well-being and regained enthusiasm.

Referring to the high school shooting incidents in the US and the Thai kindergarten, Professor Ming-Shinn Lee of Dong Hwa University gave a topic of “Global Development of Safe Schools and Taiwan’s Experience.” He emphasized that every school should focus on the factors of a safe campus: the safety of daily living, disaster readiness, and traffic safety. A school should set safety goals in the short, medium, and long term. 

Professor Hsinyi Hsiao of Tzu Chi University shared “University Social Responsibility and Design Thinking Related to the Intergenerational Service-Learning” entrusted by the National Health Administration. The project involved participation of faculty members and students from Chung Shan Medical University, Cheng Kung University, Meiho University, Quemoy University, and Tzu Chi University. Through the 18-week course, instructors tried to inspire students’ empathy toward the elderly, improve their communication skills, enhance the happiness of the elderly, and augment the physical well-being of the elderly. It did help.

Approaching the end of the conference, participants asked questions enthusiastically, and experts responded. Professor Yie-Ru Chiu said that from the course design and participation, students understood the needs of others and realized that “I have a great influence on the world” and “I am closely connected with the world.” Let’s work together to fulfill the University’s social responsibility.