Despite rapid advances in medicine, the twin tyrannies of
ignorance of preventive sanitation and resulting illness still afflict much of rural Asia.
Farm families yearn for the benefits of modern medicine as much as anyone, but the cost of
most existing treatment facilities and drugs places them beyond the reach of ordinary
Dr. HSU SHIH-CHU has applied himself to this challenge ever since he completed his
internship and graduate studies in public health at Peking Union Medical College in 1934.
Organizing a demonstration, self-supporting, community health service in Kiangning County
near Nanking in the mid-1930s, training medical officials and combating malaria in West
China during the Sino-Japanese War, he was systematically searching for means to make the
benefits of modern medicine available to al1.
When Dr. HSU became Chief of the Rural Health Division of the Chinese and American
Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction in 1948, he gained the scope and means to put his
ideas to work. Starting on Taiwan the following year, HSU used JCRR assistance to mobilize
public-spirited local leaders in each of 361 districts and townships to establish and
support health stations. As tax collection improved, these units became the responsibility
of local governments.
Similarly, HSU induced popular cooperation with government health agencies in building
village and school water works and latrines, first in public places and then in homes.
Also organized were garbage collection and mosquito and fly extermination. To initiate
health education for children, JCRR financed two-week training courses for one teacher
from each primary school. With this groundwork, mass campaigns eradicated endemic plague
from Quemoy Island and rabies, cholera and malaria from Taiwan. Continuing rural services
helped control tuberculosis and diphtheria. An index of achievement was the drop in
Taiwan's annual death rate to 6.5 per 1,000, one of the lowest in the world.
A public health doctor alert to farmers' needs, HSU focused upon bringing food
processing methods up to international standards. Working with farmers' cooperatives and
canneries, he and his staff evolved methods that now allow Taiwan to earn annually over
US$31 million from the export of canned mushrooms and US$24 million from canned asparagus.
More recently, he assisted farmers and processors in adopting aseptic techniques to launch
a new industry of exporting quick-frozen pea pods and other foods.
Long convinced that permanent improvement in rural livelihood would only become
possible with effective family planning, HSU has patiently and persistently prodded
government institutions and private groups toward such action. Starting with demographic
studies and improved vital statistics, his program gradually incorporated maternity and
child health with pre-pregnancy health services enabling women to plan births. As a
consequence, Taiwan, which supports some 14 million persons on 850,000 hectares of
cultivated land, reduced its rate of natural increase from over three percent to about two
percent annually over the past six years.
To all these efforts, HSU has brought more than superb professional competence and
unstinting effort. He has succeeded consistently in bringing provincial and local
government agencies, voluntary groups and villagers themselves together toward the common
objective of a healthy, vigorous population.
In electing HSU SHIH-CHU to receive the 1969 Ramon Magsaysay Award for
Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his enthusiastic yet practical role
in establishing on Taiwan rural health, sanitation and family planning services that are
models for developing nations.