Established in 1978 as a resource centre to provide health education materials and professional advice on health education matter, the Central Health Education Unit has undergone changes in structure and functions over the past four decades to strengthen its leadership role in health advocacy and promotion, with a view to building a healthy Hong Kong.
Over the years, the unit has spared no effort in promoting healthy lifestyle through a life-course and setting based approach, including community participation, partnership, empowerment and equity. Some notable examples include the recent initiatives of mental health promotion, the Joyful@HK campaign and the stepping up of promotional effort to raise public awareness of the need for organ donation.
Despite these efforts, Hong Kong, like many places in the world, is not immune to the impact of a rapidly ageing population. Coupled with a trend in unhealthy lifestyles, Hong Kong is facing an unprecedented threat brought about by non-communicable diseases, or NCD in short.
NCD are culprits of ill health, disability and death. In 2016, more than half of all registered deaths in Hong Kong were attributed to five major NCD, namely, heart diseases, stroke, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. The prolonged and costly treatment not only affects the well-being of individuals, but also poses undue hardship on families and heavy burden on an already challenged healthcare system in Hong Kong.
Most premature deaths caused by NCD are preventable through lifestyle changes. To address the health threats caused by NCDs, the World Health Assembly endorsed the “WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention & Control of NCDs 2013-2020” in 2013. The Global Action Plan provides a road map and comprehensive policy options for governments to work in a systematic and collective manner in the fight against NCD. Ninety-three of 194 World Health Organization member states, including China, the US, Japan and Korea have already adopted national targets to address NCDs.
The WHO further advised that the cost of inaction against NCD far outweighs that of taking actions. It is estimated that the cost for implementing the global action plan amounts to US$940 million, or less than 1% of the current health spending of many affluent countries. However, if we maintain the status quo, it will result in loss of productivity and escalation of health care costs, and the cumulative effect is estimated to be US$47 trillion, or 50,000 times more expensive than taking actions proposed by WHO.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is committed to promoting healthy lifestyle in Hong Kong, thereby reducing the risk of NCD. Our work began in 2008 when a strategic framework for prevention and control of NCD was introduced and the high-level multidisciplinary Steering Committee on Prevention & Control of NCD was set up to oversee the implementation of various promotional campaigns to promote healthy diet and physical activity, reduce alcohol-related harm and prevent unintentional injury.
To achieve greater and more sustainable results, we are here today to launch the “Towards 2025: Strategy & Action Plan to Prevent & Control Non-communicable Diseases in Hong Kong” to promulgate a strategy and action plan to prevent and control NCD in Hong Kong. It sets out nine voluntary targets for reducing NCD by 2025 and a collection of cross-sectoral actions that are cost-effective, affordable, sustainable, and, at the same time, promote health equity and require health considerations to be taken into account during policy formulation. The strategy and action plan are formulated on the basis of views collected through consultation and collaboration with stakeholders from all quarters of our society.
As for the actions to be taken, they broadly fall under five key areas that fit the acronym of “HeALTH”. In gist, the letters “H” “e” stand for “Healthy Start”; “A” stands for “Alcohol Free”; “L” stands for “Live well and be Active”; “T” stands for “Tobacco Free”; and finally “H” stands for “Healthy Diet”.
We are determined to nurture a happier and healthier population in Hong Kong. However, the Government’s effort alone definitely is not enough. We need the support and participation of the entire community to achieve the nine targets and the list of actions proposed by the strategy and action plan swiftly across the territory.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung gave these remarks at the opening ceremony of the Health Promotion Symposium & Central Health Education Unit 40th Anniversary Celebration on May 4.