Doctors have called for regulations on the contents of school lunchboxes to combat obesity, after the Hospital Authority recorded more than 1,000 children and teenagers in three years with diseases that usually affect older people. But the government said it doubted whether such rules would be effective, saying public education was a better solution. The authority said 1,083 patients aged between five and 19 with coronary diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure had died or been discharged from hospital from 2001 through to 2003. Diabetes sufferers were the biggest group, with 771, followed by hypertension, with 281. In a written reply to a question in the Legislative Council yesterday, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok said the bureau would conduct a study on the nutritional content of school lunchboxes that would 'inform' a public education campaign. Dr Chow said pamphlets on healthy eating had been provided to teachers and pupils, and a series of talks organised. The bureau had not, however, conducted any feasibility studies on regulating school lunchboxes. 'Legislation on lunchbox intake alone may not be an effective means to promote healthy eating. Comprehensive public education could be more effective,' Dr Chow wrote. But a paediatrician said regulations could ensure children ate healthy food. Ellis Hon Kam-lun, a professor of paediatrics at Chinese University, said: 'Young children do not know how to choose food items that are healthy, they simply take the ones that are tasty, like deep-fried items. So there is a need to have regulations on school lunchboxes.'