Dentist getting to the root of his health crusade

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 April, 2004, 12:00am

Education is key in Aids and smoking issues, says Dr Homer Tso

Health sector lobbyist Homer Tso Wei-kwok knows there is plenty wrong with a world in which people suffer and die every day - and he has set out to help change things.

A dentist by profession, Dr Tso, 53, chairs the Advisory Council on Aids as well as the Council on Smoking and Health in Hong Kong. Together, the two roles consume much of the dentist's spare time. Both are unpaid.

'Whenever you get involved in voluntary work, it's the people you work with that drive you. If they're not honourable, or are lazy and not dedicated, you won't see me doing it,' he says.

'But when you see them going at it [working hard], you would feel embarrassed if you're not doing a good job. This is what it's all about.'

Sitting in a cluttered office, Dr Tso says he had a very Christian upbringing. He believes in helping others, which in turn makes him happy. 'You have to do what makes you feel good at the end of the day.'

Dr Tso says he has no doubts about the detrimental effects of smoking. He would like to see the unhealthy habit banned in all indoor public places and work areas, as well as schools.

But laws should only come after education. 'It's not about powerful people setting rules to rule people ... Legislation should be a contract between mature adults, like marriage. If you make laws to manage, you will get resistance.'

Dr Tso says that he tries to work closely with local district councils to reach the grassroots of society, because 'we cannot work from top down, but bottom up'.

Speaking about his Aids work, he says that his efforts are not getting the results that he had hoped.

Science has now given us drugs that can help and prolong patients' lives, he says. But the medicine comes at a price and if patient numbers grow, Hong Kong's medical system - with its shrinking budget - simply won't be able to cope.

'Who's going to decide who's going to live and who's going to die? Aids isn't visible enough for the general public and policy-makers to be concerned about,' he says.

But Dr Tso is undeterred and will continue his volunteer work. Having seen a little bit of life, both rich and poor, he says he realises that money isn't something that lasts.

'You can't take it with you. We all come the same way, and go the same way - there's more to life than maximising profits.