Following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the First Asian Pacific Conference Against Stroke today (April 17):
Dr Huang, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to officiate at the Opening Ceremony of the First Asian Pacific Conference Against Stroke. I am very happy to see that many experts in this field have gathered here today, all willing to work together for the public good by sharing your latest findings on this disease. The conference cannot be more timely, as cerebrovascular disease (CVD), commonly referred to as stroke, has been recently identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the three growing global threats.
In 2002, it was respectively the third and fourth leading cause of disease burden for adult males and females globally. Demographic projections suggest that a steep rise of stroke incidence can be expected in the next decade, especially in the Asian and South American countries. The extent of the threat of stroke has been similar in Hong Kong, as it was the third most common cause of deaths here, claiming about 3 000 lives annually and accounting for about 9 per cent of all deaths in 2002. As the incidence of stroke increases with age, its impact is expected to further increase with the ageing population in Hong Kong.
In order to tackle the immense impact of stroke on our society, we see a strong need for a comprehensive stroke programme that can address all relevant dimensions including prevention, diagnosis, acute management, rehabilitation and community care. When new infectious diseases have been emerging at a rate of one a year for the last 20 years or more, with SARS the latest, we cannot afford to lose sight of the growing social and economic threat posed by chronic diseases such as stroke and other non-communicable diseases. This "double challenge" of communicable and non-communicable diseases to our public health system, calls for a "double response" which integrates prevention and control of both categories of diseases within a healthcare system.
I am glad to say that our health care system has been further geared up upon the establishment of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), which will integrate prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases into our comprehensive health systems led by primary care. The Non-Communicable Disease Division in CHP will continue to conduct research, plan and implement prevention and control programmes for stroke as well as other diseases. The Central Health Education Unit, which is also under the umbrella of CHP, will continue its efforts to further bolster the awareness on the risk factors contributing to stroke through active health promotional programmes.
The government is also fully aware that an appropriate balance between primary and secondary prevention is another critical aspect in facilitating the control of stroke. Active participation of public institutions and professional organisations in Hong Kong in improving the local stroke services and promoting public awareness is equally important.
In this aspect, the Hospital Authority has set up acute stroke units as well as organised rehabilitation services to streamline the care for patients with acute stroke. New treatment modalities including thrombolytic therapy and endovascular surgery are being developed, and acute stroke services will be provided with the agreed standards. The professionals have also worked closely with patient self-help groups to increase public awareness and facilitate integration of stroke patients back to the community. In the coming year, it will also be working with its community partners to promote health awareness about blood pressure control and smoking cessation, both being important risk factors for stroke.
In addition to the services provided by our public health system, we are also committed to a coherent policy framework which should encompass necessary legislation and regulation. As smoking cessation is crucial to the prevention and control of stroke, we will be further strengthening our tobacco control framework and in protecting members of the public, particularly non-smokers, against passive smoking in public indoor premises. We will propose a host of legislative amendments to the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance for discussion at the next legislative session. We are also actively considering the public's views on our proposal on a mandatory nutritional labelling system which will cover nutrients such as fat, cholesterol, sugar etc., all of which have well-documented evidence of correlation with major risk factors of stroke. With these regulatory approaches, coupled with the educational programmes I mentioned earlier on, I am confident that the habit of healthy eating will be gradually instilled in our community when they become better-informed of what they are consuming, which should then help reduce the risk factors contributing to stroke.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the Hong Kong Stroke Society, which has been most active in enhancing professional knowledge on the prevention and management of stroke since its establishment two years ago. I understand that its multi-specialty membership, comprising neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, rehabilitation specialists and other professionals, helps foster innovations and close collaboration. As the pattern of stroke in Asia is different from that in the Western world and the organisation of any stroke service must be tailored according to the local healthcare infrastructure and community characteristics, this Conference is certainly an excellent platform where frontiers of knowledge on stroke can be crystallized. Through the presentations by both local and international experts and active discussion among the delegates, I am sure that you will be able to achieve a better understanding of the unique aspects of stroke in Asia and the appropriate model of stroke service that will improve the health of our population. Let me wish you a good stay in Hong Kong. It gives me great pleasure to declare this seminar open. Thank you very much.
Ends/Saturday, April 17, 2004