Big idea for healthy lives pushed

Local | Cissy So 11 Sep 2019

A think tank has proposed stepping up primary health care services to help alleviate pressure on public hospitals.

The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre suggests government officials launch a personal check scheme so people develop healthy habits early on and reduce the chances of premature death due to chronic diseases.

That came in the study report Health Care for All: Why and How?

"Compared with curative treatments, it is far more effective to promote public health by encouraging and enhancing preventive health-care services," center director and study convener Donald Li Kwok-tung said.

About three in 10 people in Hong Kong suffered from chronic diseases in 2016/17, the report noted. And as the proportion of people with chronic diseases rises significantly after they turn 45, citizens with continuing health needs will increase in the face of the aging population, which will weigh on public hospitals.

The center estimates at least 40,000 people with high blood pressure, diabetes and influenza could have avoided admission to hospital in 2017.

Having comprehensive and effective primary care services will enable patients with chronic illnesses to be treated in the community or encourage prevention before the onset of diseases, the report says. One short-to-medium term recommendation that will take five to 10 years is launching the personalized and subsidized "321: One Person, One Health Plan" by integrating check-up services.

Checks for hypertension, hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia and screenings for colorectal and cervical cancer would be covered in the plan.

People aged 45 and above would be eligible for free enrolment following a consultation with their doctors.

To encourage young people to better manage their health, the foundation suggested the government introduce a matching subsidy scheme for them to undergo regular checkups.

Additionally, it encouraged a broad participation in the Electronic Health Record Sharing System, which blends public and private sectors.

Only 1.06 million people - about 14 percent of Hong Kong's population - had registered for the system by the end of June.

The center estimates that services for Hongkongers aged 45 and above will cost HK$4.9 billion and benefit up to 3.58 million people while a pilot scheme for those aged below 45 will cost HK$2.9 billion and benefit up to 3.55 million people.

The report also said the government has tried to enhance primary care services, but efforts have moved at a snail's pace for the past 30 years as policy support has been lacking.

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