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LCQ8: Overweight and obesity

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (March 28):


     Earlier on, the report of a survey has pointed out that more than 46% of the people in Hong Kong are in the class of overweight or obesity, and that as people grow older, they are more likely to lose control over their weight.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether the authorities have recently conducted relevant surveys on obese people in Hong Kong; if they have, of the findings; if not, the reasons for that;

(b)  of the percentage of obese people in Hong Kong at present; how this figure compares with the relevant figures in other developed countries (e.g. Japan and Korea, etc.) in Asia and the Pacific region;

(c)  whether the authorities have assessed the impact of the problem of obesity of Hong Kong people and aggravation of the problem by an ageing population in the future on public health expenditure and the socio-economic development of Hong Kong; if they have, of the specific findings; if not, the reasons for that;  

(d)  whether the Government is reviewing the overall effectiveness of the various campaigns implemented to promote a healthy lifestyle among the public at present; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(e)  whether the authorities have considered setting promoting fitness for all a priority social policy; if they have not, of the reasons for that?



     The rising trend of overweight and obesity is largely attributable to the lifestyles of unhealthy dietary habits, the wide availability of high fat and sugary foods and the lack of physical activity.  Medical research indicates that unhealthy lifestyles can cause many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease and diabetes.  In this connection, the Government has been actively promoting healthy lifestyles with a view to improving the health of the public.  In measuring overweight and obesity, one method is to use the Body Mass Index (BMI), calculated by dividing the body weight (in kilogrammes) by height (in metres) squared.

     Reply to the five parts of the question is as follows:

(a)  The Department of Health (DH) has since 2005 set up a Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System to collect information on health-related behaviours of Hong Kong's adult population through telephone surveys conducted systematically and periodically.  The System monitors the prevalence of obesity among adults aged between 18 and 64 according to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s classification in adult Asians.

     According to the 2010 Survey, about 39.2% of adults had a BMI of 23.0 or above (i.e. classified as overweight or obese).  Those with a BMI of 25.0 or above (i.e. classified as obese) comprised about 21.0%.

     A higher proportion of males (48.3%) than females (31.4%) were classified as overweight and obese.  People aged 45-54 had the highest proportion (51.4%) of being overweight or obese.

(b)  With reference to the latest information of WHO, the relevant data of Japan, Korea and Hong Kong are set out in the table 1.  As the year of conducting the surveys and the age bands of respondents were different in each place, it would be difficult to make direct comparisons between the data.

(c) At this stage, the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) has not conducted any comprehensive quantitative assessment on the impact of public health expenditure and the socio-economic development of Hong Kong resulting from the aggravation of obesity by an ageing population in the future.  However, risk factors such as overweight or obesity are causes to NCDs such as heart disease and diabetes, which in turn will affect our labour productivity and standard of living in the long run, undermining our economic vitality and competitiveness.

     Demographic changes and rising healthcare costs in Hong Kong are also bringing challenges to our healthcare system.  The Government has been continuously increasing the resources for public healthcare services.  Recurrent heath expenditures in 2012/13 has increased by over 40% in comparison to five years ago, and its proportion in relation to total government recurrent expenditure has increased to 17%.  In parallel, FHB has since 2008 implemented various healthcare service reforms, including enhancement of primary care, promotion of public-private partnership, development of electronic health record sharing and strengthening of the public healthcare safety net.  Our objective is to establish a sustainable healthcare system, and enhance the standards of our healthcare services and the health of the population in Hong Kong.

(d) The Government formulated the Strategic Framework for Prevention and Control of NCDs in October 2008 and strives to tackle unhealthy living habits that carry a major impact to the health of the population and are potentially preventable or modifiable.  In parallel, the Government has set up a Steering Committee on Prevention and Control of NCDs, chaired by the Secretary for Food and Health, comprising representatives from the Government, public and private sectors, academia, professional bodies, related industries and other key partners.

     A working group established under the Steering Committee launched the "Action Plan to Promote Healthy Diet and Physical Activity Participation in Hong Kong" in September 2010, which outlines the specific actions to be taken by various organisations in the promotion of healthy diet and physical activity participation in Hong Kong in the coming years.  The Action Plan is targeted at various population groups (such as babies and infants, school children, young people and working adults, etc.) and actively promotes healthy lifestyles among the public in various settings (such as schools, restaurants and local communities, etc).  Contents of the Strategic Framework and the Action Plan can be downloaded from DH's "Change4Health" website (

     Dietary patterns and choice of food are closely related to daily lifestyle and socio-cultural factors.  The effective tackling of the issue of overweight in our population requires concerted efforts from our society as a whole and collaboration between the Government, public and private organisations, academic and professional bodies, media and members of the public and also needs to be proceeded in a systematic and step-by-step manner to ensure more cost-effective utilisation of resources.  Through implementation of the Strategic Framework as well as various measures and activities, we will continue to actively promote a healthy eating culture and public awareness of regular exercise with a view to improving the health of the community.

(e)  Encouraging the general public to adopt a healthy lifestyle has all along been part of the Government's policy on public health.  Moreover, healthcare professionals providing primary care also play an important role in the promotion of health, in addition to providing medical treatment for patients.  In this respect, DH collaborated with the Hong Kong Medical Association, Hong Kong Doctors Union, Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), Physical Fitness Association of Hong Kong, China and other non-governmental organisations to launch the Exercise Prescription Project in 2006.  Under the project, healthcare professionals provide patients with written advice on appropriate and regular physical activities.  DH is currently preparing on a new round of training for healthcare professionals.

     In addition, LCSD has also been committed to promoting Sport for All through the provision of a wide range of recreational and sports activities and facilities for people of different age groups with a view to encouraging the public to develop habits of doing exercise regularly and to lead a healthy lifestyle, so as to achieve the aim of promoting the policy of Sport for All.

     In addition to organising a wide spectrum of recreation and sports activities through 18 District Leisure Services Offices for participation by people of all ages, LCSD has also provided funding to National Sports Associations and other sports organisations through the Sports Subvention Scheme for organising various kinds of sports activities in the community for public participation, so as to achieve the objective of sports promotion and development.

     LCSD will continue its efforts to carry out publicity and promotional activities to highlight to the public the importance and benefits of regular participation in sports and other physical activities.  LCSD also keeps the existing recreation and sports services under review, examining the feasibility of providing more diversified recreation and sports activities and facilities to the public, and creating an environment which is more conducive to active and regular participation by the public in sports and physical activities.

Ends/Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:16


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