Letters to the Editor Page, July 27, 2017

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 4:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 4:39pm

Can Chinese medicine really deal with flu?

The present peak in the number of influenza cases has filled our hospitals and caused more than 200 deaths.

Although the cause of this year’s spike is uncertain, there is speculation that it is a minor mutation in this summer’s dominant strain of influenza A H3N2. This small change could make the current vaccine ineffective. Despite the uncertainty, we should be thankful for advances in modern medicine that identify viruses and develop vaccines. These advances stand in stark contrast to the Hospital Authority’s advice on Chinese medicine.

Specifically, responding to the recent flu outbreak, Dr Eric Ziea, head of the authority’s Chinese Medicine Department, has advised flu patients to consider using Chinese medicine to alleviate some of the symptoms. He says for some sufferers with non-acute symptoms, Chinese medicine has been effective in relieving flu symptoms.

First, which of the myriad types of Chinese medicine should flu sufferers take? If leading government health experts were to say “it is best to take Western medicine” during a major flu outbreak, they would be heavily criticised. So, with a blanket claim that Chinese medicine can relieve flu symptoms, which actual Chinese medicine is most effective?

Second, one would expect that because those with non-acute symptoms would recover without taking medicine, the claim that some have felt relief from Chinese medicine is hardly convincing evidence of its efficacy. There is a distinct possibility that those who feel relief from Chinese medicine are confusing correlation with causation. Their symptoms would have disappeared whether they took the medicine or not.

My concern is that when an authority figure makes public claims about the effectiveness of Chinese medicine, the public believes it and acts upon it.

Western medicine has enjoyed incredible success using methods starting with tests on lab rats and progressing in stages of testing requiring large randomised samples of individuals in double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. It is through this scientific protocol that flu vaccines and anti-viral drugs have been ­developed.

Even after such rigorous testing, the vaccines are often only partially effective. Has Chinese medicine been ­subjected to similar levels of ­rigour?

This summer, more than 27,000 people with flu symptoms have visited the Hospital Authority’s 18 Chinese medicine clinics for treatment. Statements like the one that Ziea made will keep them coming, but to what effect?

Paul Stapleton, associate professor, the Education University of Hong Kong

How to climb the happiness league table

Earlier this year, when the UN published its World Happiness Report, Hong Kong was ranked only 71st. This raises questions about quality of life in our city. The happiness index looks at various factors, and in some we do well, such as gross domestic product per capita and overall cleanliness.

But we falter when it comes to dealing effectively with social issues, which is why we lag behind countries in the region such as Singapore, Japan and Thailand. Certainly, our standing in this latest happiness league table is not satisfactory.

There can be no doubt that many citizens are unhappy because of the living conditions they have to endure. I think the root of the problem is that the gap between rich and poor is becoming wider and so people at the bottom of the pile feel deeply dissatisfied.

In Denmark, ranked one of the happiest countries in the world, efforts have been made to deal with this gap and alleviate the plight of people on low ­incomes.

Now that we have a new chief executive, I hope we will see improvements in Hong Kong and that we will enjoy a higher ­ranking next year.

Shirley Yeung Suet-yi, Yau Yat Chuen

Spare some time for older generation

Too often within the family, the priority is with the children, and elderly ­relatives tend to be overlooked.

This can happen because parents’ lives are so busy they can only focus on their jobs and on ensuring their children get the care they need.

Also, children are so busy with their studies that they might overlook their grandparents.

Parents and children alike need to allocate more time to spend with elderly relatives.

Oscar Au Yeung, Po Lam

Trust our think tanks to train young activists

Alex Lo in his column (“Young activists pay the price for their passion”, July 22) is right when he points to the need for inter-generational guidance to avoid the sort of confrontational ­politics we have witnessed in ­recent years.

Schools and universities alone cannot provide the experience needed to develop the pragmatic skills and wider vision that participation in the political ­process requires from members of both government and ­opposition.

Could we appeal to the local think tanks to help out with internships, seminars and/or training places? Perhaps.

The problem seems to be that the public has little knowledge of the think tanks, their supporters, orientation and agendas, their clients and ­products. Trust is an issue.

The simple question really is: are we putting an existing resource to best use for the ­benefit of the whole ­community?

Helmut Sohmen, Sheung Wan