Following is the opening address (English translation) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr York Chow, at the Third Joint Meeting of Senior Health Officials of the Mainland, Hong Kong and Macau today (October 15):
Vice-Minister Huang, Director Cui, delegates,
I am delighted that the Joint Meeting of Senior Health Officials of the Mainland, Hong Kong and Macau opens again today. On behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government, I would like to extend our warmest welcome to delegates of the Central Government and Macau SAR Government.
This is the third Joint Meeting of Senior Health Officials of the three places. At the last two conferences, with the support of and arrangement made by the Central Government and the Macau SAR Government, the health authorities of the three places have developed a sound basis for communication and established effective platforms for exchanges in the areas of public health and food safety.
With growing globalisation, more frequent movements of people and goods between places, and urban areas becoming more densely populated, there are increasing challenges in the work of public health. The experience in the past two years demonstrates that infectious diseases do not respect boundaries. The control of the spread of new emerging infectious diseases hinges on information, technology and experience exchange and co-operation of health authorities in different places. The Joint Meeting reaffirmed the resolution and determination of health authorities in the three places in joining hands to safeguard public health. I believe the meeting this year will play an instrumental part in enhancing health protection work of the three places.
In the past year, Hong Kong health authorities had devoted much effort in upgrading the ability of Hong Kong in monitoring and controlling infectious diseases. After the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) crisis, we appointed a SARS Expert Committee formed by international and Mainland medical professionals and experts to review the management and control of the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong. The committee has put forward 46 recommendations touching on various aspects of our entire medical system. With the collective efforts of the relevant departments, these improvement measures have been fully implemented.
As recommended by the Committee, we have also set up the Centre for Health Protection (CHP). Under the purview of the Department of Health, the CHP is underpinned by six branches. From conducting epidemiological studies to mobilising manpower and resources across departments to contain public health risks, the CHP has assumed a leading role in the detection and control of infectious diseases in Hong Kong. A representative from the centre will shortly update you on the latest development in disease surveillance and information exchange in the three places, as well as the latest measures we have implemented for the monitoring and control of avian flu. Representatives from the Hospital Authority and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will also brief you on the strategies adopted by public hospitals in Hong Kong for epidemic prevention, as well as the work of vector surveillance and control.
As health and food safety go hand in hand, we have always attached great importance to food safety issues. We have had a number of discussions and exchanges with the relevant Mainland authorities on food safety issues in the past year. Apart from maintaining the existing co-operation, we have also strengthened the already well-established notification mechanism on food safety. With better co-operation and speedy exchange of information, we hope to tackle food safety issues at source and to enhance consumer protection.
In addition to stepping up our work on infectious diseases and food safety, implementing the work of other public health issues cannot be slowed down. Preparations are under way to enhance the legislative framework for tobacco control and to set up a nutrition labeling system. I believe the three places can share experience in these work areas. The Health, Welfare and Food Bureau will speak on the legislative changes to be introduced for tobacco control, while representative from the FEHD will outline the approach taken by Hong Kong in the supervision of food hygiene.
We hope this meeting will also highlight two new pathways for the sustainable development of Hong Kong's medical system. Colleagues from the Hospital Authority will discuss with you the challenges and opportunities we face in pursuing community-based healthcare reforms, and to share with you the way forward for the development of Chinese medicine.
In closing, I would like to thank once again leaders of the health authorities of the Central Government, Guangdong Provincial Government and Macau SAR Government for attending this Joint Meeting. May I wish the meeting every success. Thank you.
Ends/Friday, October 15, 2004