Of Trust and Trustability (Day 4)

August 4: Chong’zhai Village 

Our third day of screening takes place in Chong’zhai Village with a different Dr. Liang.

It’s essentially the same process as the past two days, so I’ll take this opportunity to highlight two stories.

First is this man who came in with a host of concerns, ranging from cataracts to diabetes. We checked his vision. 0.8 in one eye and 1.0 (equivalent to 20/20) in the other. Fortunately we weren’t too busy at that time, as we spend the next 30 minutes reassuring him that he didn’t need to see the doctor at this time.

“But I’ve been drinking this stuff every day, this—what do you call it—CMD,” he immediately adds, pronunciation each letter forcefully as if it had some awe-inspiring weight. “So I should be fine, right?”

He pulls out a conspicuously-looking purple box that seems out of place among the rows of Chinese medicine in the health station.


It doesn’t profess to have panacea-like effects explicitly, but somehow this man in rural China got the impression that drinking this everyday could prevent cataracts, refractive error, and diabetes. Looks like Chinese companies aren’t the only ones slipping through the leaky filter of the Chinese FDA.

Speaking of false medicines and charlatans, we had been warned before coming out here that trying to carry out activities without the support of the local village committee would be analogous to trying to run up a brick wall. Many of these villagers had had their fair share of experience with quacks, who come in dressed as doctors offering free exams, only to end up selling them some useless medicine. It’s not only a rural problem (although certainly more prevalent here), as this advertisement for a “cataract-dissolving eye drop” outside my Guangzhou apartment shows:

We were generally successful in obtaining support from the village committees of the villages we visited, but not always. Yet I’ve found that despite the suspicion you can receive, once in a while you’ll come across a villager who recognizes your persistent sincerity and welcomes you with open arms.

Two of my teammates met one such villager today.


Her husband had already done surgery in one eye and was looking to have the second operated as well. He didn’t even have rural cooperative insurance during the time of the first surgery, and as a result had to pay the full 3500 out of pocket. When our volunteers relayed the news that surgery was only 500 now with his new insurance, he and his wife cheerfully invited them in and offered them some of the local specialty picked right from the tree: huangpi.

They also left with some else: a picture of a very amusing line splashed across the back of their home:

Don’t ever forget the class struggle.

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