Ling, Rui

School of Public Health



Population health research on migrant and vulnerable communities living in the Greater Bay Area region of China

The Greater Bay Area Region is experiencing a growing influx of migrants. These communities are at risk for multiple psychosocial, infectious disease, and physical health concerns due to highly stressful working conditions and lack of health protections. Among the most vulnerable labor migrants are domestic workers from Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

The health and mental health of migrant communities is a significant public health concern because subsets of migrants are at an increased risk of mental health and physical health problems. There are a number of important risks to health that have been documented in migrant communities. These include vulnerabilities to mental health problems based on country of origin concerns (e.g., past history of violence), and current stressors and challenges in adaptation to the post-migration context (e.g., discrimination, remittance strain, social isolation, abuse by employers, poor living conditions).

This research program has the following aims: 1) to establish a longitudinal cohort of labor migrants for the purpose of establishing the population prevalence and incidence of critical physical (obesity), sexual (HIV/Syphilis), and mental health (PTSD, depression, addictions), issues among migrant worker communities in South China using respondent driven sampling (RDS) methods, 2) to identify key drivers of poor population health utilizing a socioecological framework, including personal health behaviors and social determinants of health, and, 3) to focus particular attention on social networks and social capital as a critical levels of analysis to understand population health. In conjunction with this RDS study, the study team is undergoing intervention development and adaptation for migrant health. The aim of this work is to disseminate evidence based low intensity interventions to reduce the burden of poor mental and physical health, in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

Pilot projects are also underway in various provinces in China to address the burden of mental ill health across the life-course (including youth and elders). 

PI Mentor: Carl Latkin

My placement was in Macao, China from June 2019 to December 2019. Macao is a city in southern China, located close to Hong Kong and it adjacent to Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province. It has been a Special Administrative Region of China since 1999 and it is famous for gambling and entertainment in Asia. It is a safe and interesting place with multiple cultures thriving together. I am glad to get the placement at such a charming city. 

I worked as a full-time research assistant at the University of Macao in the Global and Community Mental Health Research Group, University of Macau. The director of the research group is an associate professor at the University of Macau whose focus is global and community mental health. Most of the group members study psychology and several of them are registered clinical psychologists, which was also a great opportunity for me to be exposed more to my interested area mental health and psychology. 

During my stay there, my work could be divided into two main parts. The first part is a project that focuses on the cultural adaptation of a digital mental health intervention for college students living in Macau. The project is the first step of a bigger program of the scale-able WHO digital mental health intervention, including a pilot study and a randomized controlled trial. Ecological Validity Model (EVM) developed by Bernal and colleagues (Bernal, Bonilla, & Bellido, 1995) was selected to inform the modification to the content of the intervention. We tried to make language, persons, metaphors, content, goals, methods, and contexts in the Step-by-Step more acceptable, relevant, comprehensible, and complete for Chinese students. The best part of this project is that I get to talk to community members through the focus groups or interviews and the meetings with local NGOs made me realize how different the focus and concern could be for stakeholders. It could be hard to coordinate between stakeholders and the accuracy of the research, but the concerns from both sides are important and worth thinking.

Beyond the work for the cultural adaption project, I also led an innovative crowdsourcing designathon for the marketing plan for the interventions in July 2019. During the event, eight well-designed communication packages were done with a name for the intervention, a slogan, a logo, a poster, and a short advertisement video. The idea of the event is to engage potential intervention beneficiaries in the dissemination process. After the event, we submitted a manuscript about the designathon, which could enlighten people with similar thoughts to practice. 

The second part of my work is working on the administrative work and team management for the research group, like protocol writing, IRB writing, budgeting and reimbursement, and meeting arrangement. Because of the administrative work, I got to know people in the university and the working process for administrative work. My interest in management and administration grows with the experience and I decided to get a certificate to equip me with the ability to work as a program manager in health organizations in the future. I hope all the additional courses about it could help me better with the system, the details, and nuances of management work. This is the power of the placement. Every experience helps you understand yourself better by thinking about your real interest and dream life.

 Last but not least, I have to mention the people I met and worked in the research group. They are smart, considerate and hard-working. We become friends and we spent so much time together exploring the city with love and smile. Now I am no longer a stranger to Macao. Memory, passion, and connection there stay forever. 


Bernal, G., Bonilla, J., & Bellido, C. 1995. Ecological validity and cultural sensitivity for outcome research: Issues for the cultural adaptation and development of psychosocial treatments with Hispanics. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 23(1), 67-82.doi:10.1007/BF01447045

Volunteering in Rehabilitation International Asia and Pacific Regional Conference 2019 with group members 

A group photo after the crowdsourcing designthon. You can see we are all in black, which is a staff color in Macao 

A group photo after a weekly group meeting at the beginning of a new semester. (We had group meeting/journal club every Wednesday)

A photo during a tour with a professor invited by my PI

Food after meeting with local organization


October 2022



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