DH holds symposium to celebrate 40th anniversary of Central Health Education Unit (with photos)

     The Department of Health (DH) today (May 4) held the Health Promotion Symposium cum Central Health Education Unit 40th Anniversary Celebration, bringing together over 300 overseas and local healthcare professionals to explore in depth the promotion of healthy living in the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

     Addressing the opening ceremony of the symposium, the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, recognised the efforts of the Central Health Education Unit (CHEU) of the DH in health promotion over the past 40 years. He commended that apart from promoting physical and mental well-being to Hong Kong people, the CHEU has significantly contributed to the reduction of NCDs and tackling of the threat of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease.

     Mr Cheung also witnessed the launch of "Towards 2025: Strategy and Action Plan to Prevent and Control Non-communicable Diseases in Hong Kong" at the symposium today. He fully supported the strategies, approaches and principles enshrined in the strategy and action plan, and appealed for the active participation and support of the entire community in response to the NCD challenge. 

     The Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in her welcoming speech said, "CHEU has played a leading role in the promotion of health in the community, as well as formulating and implementing evidence-based strategies on various important health subjects. Their continuous efforts for combating NCDs are truly commendable."

     Also speaking at the opening ceremony, the Director of Health, Dr Constance Chan, said, "Since its establishment in 1978, the CHEU has made significant progress in achieving its vision to be a health promotion champion to build a healthy Hong Kong through organising territory-wide campaigns."

     She pointed out that, with continuous efforts put in at primary schools, kindergartens and child care centres through the EatSmart@school.hk and StartSmart@school.hk campaigns, there has been a gradual drop in the overweight and obesity rates of primary school students from 22.2 per cent in the 2009/10 school year to 17.6 per cent in 2016/17 school year. In addition, the EatSmart@restaurant.hk Campaign launched in 2008 has had a positive impact on the sales of restaurants as well as the eating behaviour and practices of the catering staff, according to a recent survey, and over 1 000 organisations joined the Joyful@Healthy Workplace Programme to promote healthy eating, physical activity and mental health to their 280 000 employees since 2016. The achievements of the mental health promotion campaign Joyful@HK launched in 2016 have meanwhile been recognised by the community; and the Government has allocated increased resources for the DH to launch a continuous mental health educational and destigmatisation campaign in 2019.

     Dr Chan expressed her sincere thanks for the support and contributions of members of committees and task forces of these programmes who offered a broad range of knowledge, experience, skills and resources for the health promotion initiatives of the CHEU.
     At today's symposium, the Programme Manager of the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases at the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Fiona Bull, and the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific Region's Technical Lead for Nutrition of the Division of NCD and Health through the Life-Course, Dr Juliawati Untoro, respectively gave keynote speeches on the WHO's work in promoting physical activity and protecting children from the harmful impact of food marketing.

     Other guest speakers included Professor of Social and Health Research and Co-director of the SHORE and Whariki Research Centre, College of Health, Massey University, New Zealand, Professor Sally Casswell; the Manager of Mental Wellbeing, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Australia, Ms Irene Verins; and Head and Professor, Department of Physical Education, Hong Kong Baptist University, Professor Chung Pak-kwong. They shared with participants their insights on several important NCD topics, including reducing harmful use of alcohol, improving young people's mental well-being and developing physical activity throughout life.

     Two panel discussions were held in the morning and afternoon sessions to explore innovative and evidence-based strategies for promoting health in the community.

     Established in 1978, the CHEU started out mainly as a resource centre of health education materials and initially provided professional advice on health education matters. Following the Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion's landmark definition of health promotion, the CHEU redefined its role in early 2002 and reaffirmed its key priority action areas in 2014 to include the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity through a life-course and setting-based approach, organ donation promotion, and prevention of communicable diseases. In 2015, promoting mental well-being and mental health was also added to its agenda.

Ends/Friday, May 4, 2018
Issued at HKT 14:10