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A woman goes through her exercise routine at Tamar Park. Photo: Edmond So

Letters | How Hong Kong can give residents a sporting chance at better health

  • A new survey on physical fitness comes a decade after the previous one. The government could expand its sources of information on Hongkongers’ fitness practices and use big data to drive policy
In 2000, the government launched the Healthy Exercise for All Campaign to encourage the members of the public to spend more time on physical and sports activities. In 2008, Chinese University researchers conducted a study sponsored by the Sports Commission to assess the effectiveness of the campaign.

Based on interviews with 5,091 residents (aged seven or above), the study suggests that 65.5 per cent of Hongkongers had participated in sports at least once in the past three months. The participation rates for physical activity also dropped significantly from 95.6 per cent (aged seven to 12) to 53.3 per cent (aged 60 or above) with the increase in age.

Among all the sports participants, the three most popular activities were jogging (13.8 per cent), swimming (13.2 per cent) and badminton (10.1 per cent). Although over 60 per cent of the respondents used sports venues operated by the government, less than half of the residents aged 13 or above considered the sports facilities to be sufficient and many respondents saw the need for more badminton courts, swimming pools and sports centres.

In 2005-06 and 2011-12, the government also conducted two physical fitness surveys to better understand the overall physical fitness condition of the whole society and identify the change patterns.

While these studies provided insights that could inform the government’s policymaking on promoting exercise, more data about how Hongkongers exercise using government and private facilities must be collected from various sources.

As the next Physical Fitness Survey has been launched in mid-June, almost 10 years after the previous one, the government lacks up-to-date information on the percentages of residents of different age groups who take part in physical activities.

A elderly Hongkonger works out at Quarry Bay Park on January 7. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

To gather more information about residents’ fitness levels, the government should leverage existing programmes, such as health programmes for schoolchildren and the Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme offered by Department of Health, and conduct more regular surveys among the recipients of these services.

The government should also partner with the Insurance Authority to collect information about physical activities of the Hongkongers who purchase various health insurance products.

With data about residents’ health-related behaviours collected from multiple sources, the government can then apply big-data technologies to identify the most effective strategies for promoting exercise among different age groups.

Qihua Shen, Kowloon Tong