Following is a speech (English only) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the opening ceremony of the Third Hong Kong Allergy Convention today (January 18):
Dr Lai, Dr Bahna, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be with you at this international convention on allergy this afternoon. I am pleased to know that over 20 renowned overseas and local experts will speak at this convention to share their knowledge and expertise on the most recent advances in the epidemiology, pathogenetic mechanisms and management of allergic diseases. I would like to extend my warmest welcome to all of you, particularly our guests and friends from other parts of the world.
Over the past few decades, the prevalence of allergic diseases has been increasing worldwide, affecting individuals regardless of age, gender, race or socio-economic status. As allergic diseases involve the entire immune system of the body, they contribute to very significant morbidity and often lead to an impaired quality of life for the patient.
In the case of asthma alone, statistics from the World Allergy Organisation show that approximately 3 to 5 per cent of adults and 7 to 10 per cent of children suffer from asthma worldwide, with the prevalence increasing at 5 per cent per annum. In Hong Kong, recent studies indicate that asthma is affecting 4.5 per cent of our population and 11 per cent of our 13 to 14-year-old school children. Each year, over 12,000 people are hospitalised here in Hong Kong because of asthma.
Given the impact of the allergic diseases on the quality of life of our citizens and our healthcare resources, it is very important for us to find out more about these diseases and how their prevalence can be effectively controlled in future. Recent studies have found that a number of allergic diseases such as asthma, atopic dermatitis and food allergy may be related to our urban lifestyle, eating habits and air pollution. We have the responsibility to identify factors contributing to the prevalence of these diseases and to advise the public on effective preventive measures. We need to work harder to explore innovative solutions to treat and prevent these diseases.
This convention provides an excellent forum for allergic disease experts all over the world to share their knowledge, experience and provide opportunities for collaboration in this important medical field. I would like to congratulate the Hong Kong Institute of Allergy and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology for successfully organising this international convention for the third time. I am sure that all participants of the convention will benefit from one another's experience over the next few days.
With these remarks, I declare the third Hong Kong Allergy Convention open and wish you all a most rewarding and fruitful meeting.
End/Saturday, January 18, 2003