Positive attitude on ageing is key to public health

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 2:31am

After the DR beauty treatment incident, the government established a steering committee to review the regulatory regime for private health care facilities.

The committee's priority is to differentiate between medical procedures and beauty services. Guidelines will be issued spelling out risky treatments that beauty centres are not allowed to perform, which in the long run will be incorporated into legislation.

Guidelines and legislation are crucial. It was reported that among the more than 700 complaints against beauty services received by the Consumer Council in the first 10 months of this year, 141 were about invasive treatments.

Can legislative regulation offer full protection to customers and preclude the recurrence of similar problems? Unethical merchants will always come up with ways to challenge the law.

Will this lead to fresh calls for tougher regulation? And what if people receive so-called medical beauty treatment outside Hong Kong? Laws can help, but to achieve comprehensive and long-term protection, public education is the key.

It can help people develop a positive attitude towards ageing. Nowadays people generally have a negative impression of ageing and some will pay whatever it costs in an effort to stay young. But ageing is a natural process, and one-quarter of Hong Kong's population will be 65 or above by 2030. Therefore, helping people appreciate beauty at different stages of life is of prime importance.

Public education can also help people enhance their health and safety awareness. There are thousands of beauty products on the market, and some may cause serious harm. The government and health care sector should join hands to strengthen people's ability to identify good and dangerous products, especially for invasive treatments.

Also, there have been frequent reports of poisoning related to slimming products. According to Poisoning Watch, published by the Health Department, 39 poisoning cases were reported from January 2007 to March 2010, with one involving a three-year-old who accidentally consumed a slimming product. The improper storage of medicine is a result of insufficient safety awareness.

Wrong concepts such as "being slim is more important than your health" should also be corrected.

While legislation would protect public health, a positive attitude towards ageing and enhanced health and safety awareness would serve as a "firewall" for people to protect their personal health and safety at all times.

Diana Lee, chair professor of nursing, director, Nethersole School of Nursing, Chinese University of Hong Kong