Tell us official state of poverty

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 October, 2004, 12:00am

There has been a lot of debate recently on how the government puts its numbers together, especially welfare statistics. But where is there any reference to the 'poverty line'?

The poverty line tells a great deal about the social status of any country - how many people in the population are above it and how many below. It can also tell direction: are things getting better or worse?

Recent 'speculative' consensus is that there are now 800,000 people in Hong Kong living below the poverty line. I would like to say the 'official' poverty line, but in spite of calls from NGOs, unions and others over the years to produce one, the government has stoically and steadfastly, without ever giving any reason, refused to do so. I wonder why. Perhaps it hopes to avoid further embarrassment by not opening this can of worms. But the public should not have to speculate.

The government, which claims to have a policy of transparency, has a responsibility to publish this information. By not doing so it only diminishes its credibility.


Health priorities for HK

I refer to Simon Parry's article 'Schools urged to fight fat by putting pupils on the scales' (Sunday Morning Post, October 10), which quotes Dr Judith Mackay as saying that the government made a 'fundamental and drastic mistake' by not using the new Centre for Health Protection to promote measures to prevent heart disease.

The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health was set up in June in response to the Sars outbreak last year and other emerging infectious diseases. As such, it is understandable that the centre has focused on communicable diseases initially. Nevertheless, non-communicable diseases, including heart diseases, are one of the most important issues to be addressed on the centre's agenda. Its surveillance and epidemiology branch has been working on their prevention and control through disease surveillance, epidemiological analysis, risk assessment and risk communication.

The department is well aware that non-communicable diseases pose a heavy burden in Hong Kong in terms of morbidity and mortality. To prevent them, the department has been promoting a healthy lifestyle using a life course approach through its network of health services, including for family, students, women and the elderly.

Furthermore, the central health education unit has launched initiatives and health promotional programmes to prevent non-communicable diseases. The department's tobacco control office organises programmes on anti-smoking activities, while the oral health education unit promotes oral health to the community.

As the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases rests with the individual, we will leverage community efforts to reduce their risk to the public.

DR L. Y. TSE for Director of Health

Changing bad lifestyles

We are facing an epidemic of non-communicable diseases. Based on youth risk behaviour surveys by the Centre for Health Education and Promotion of Chinese University over the last few years, fewer than half of school children are actively involved in regular vigorous exercise and less than 10 per cent eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, with a high proportion consuming unhealthy food.

In order to change this unhealthy lifestyle, one must create a healthy environment at home, school and in the community. Healthy City is a new public health movement emphasising a holistic approach and intersectoral collaboration and community participation. It emphasises promoting health in schools and workplaces.

Some 98 schools joined the first phase of the Healthy Schools Award Scheme. This project, carried out with the government and World Health Organisation, focuses on school health services and policy, personal health skills and values, the physical and social environment and community partnership.

Apart from the Healthy Schools Award Scheme and Healthy City research, our centre is committed to education for health. It is now conducting courses in health from master's degree to sub-degree level to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to employ their skills in promoting better health. Wider implementation of the Healthy Schools concept will help fight childhood obesity and promote better health for our young generation. We must keep the momentum going.

PROFESSOR ALBERT LEE, director, Centre for Health Education and Promotion, Chinese University

In defence of Long Hair

I refer to the letter 'Long Hair must learn' (October 15), which is superficial at best. Is there anything that can definitely be 'right' or 'wrong' in politics?

The government has taken many initiatives in the hope of making Hong Kong a better place over the past seven years, but most have not achieved the desired result and been heavily criticised. Some of the problems are quite deeply rooted by now and will not be changed with mild measures.

Leung Kwok-hung may provide certain solutions, such as preventing the government taking brash actions and making it think hard about where it wants to lead Hong Kong. Also, the government has gained a few supporters recently - not because it has done anything to merit credit, but in 'pity' and 'sympathy' because of Mr Leung's actions.

GORDON K. F. LEE, Kowloon City

Super-jumbo is too big

I love travelling and am a fan of commercial airliners, but I hate being in planes. Taking a look at the new Airbus A380 ('On a wing and a prayer', Sunday Magazine, October 10), I have to agree with the naysayers.

Travellers just want to get to their destinations as quickly as possible. A two-storey airliner cannot be that appealing.

With the rising price of jet fuel, airlines will want to use one plane for two regular planeloads of passengers, so they will not bother with the onboard bar, lounge, showers and gym. After all, those extra features seem tailor-made for first- and business-class passengers; how many of those will each plane carry? Will an 'upstairs, downstairs' service difference develop?

I cannot picture myself waiting to board a flight on a super-jumbo airliner. Imagine the scene at gates 16, 17, 18 and 19 with 550 impatient passengers queueing. Even more negatively, terrorists will not find anything bigger in the sky than the A380.

From Airbus' rival, the future Boeing 7E7 does not promise to be the largest airliner in the sky, but it seems to be designed for the comfort of passengers, saving fuel and being quiet. Whichever company makes travelling more enjoyable gets my vote.

HARRY CHEN, Mei Foo Sun Chuen

British vote for US chief?

I am British, but have been drawn to the presidential debates in the US. After all, the election winner is expected to lead the world on many fronts, including defence, the economy and technology.

In 2000, I told American friends I felt sorry for them as they had to choose the least worst candidate to lead their country. In 2004, I say to Americans, forget about the politics of the two parties, their own party's stance or how your family votes - choose a candidate based on who you think can represent you best. President George W. Bush seems confident only talking about the war on terror, Senator John Kerry on health and the economy. The latter may be a flip-flopper and the former a tyrant - you have to choose between them.

Maybe people of other nations should be allowed to vote for the American president too. Certainly, Britons should get a say. With Prime Minister Tony 'Yes America' Blair, Mr Bush is our de facto head of state.




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