Improving Hong Kong: Volume 8, Autumn 2011 p7
Quality Health Care for an Ageing Population
by Lam Alfred Chun Yiu World-class health care services
The healthcare system in Hong Kong is among the best in the world as it is accessible and equitable, 1
thereby providing comprehensive protection for the needy and the underprivileged . It is evident 2
considering the low infant mortality rate and high life expectancy rate . With reference to statistics released in 2005 by the World Health Organization, the life expectancy of babies born in Hong Kong was among the longest in the world. Such figure was comparable to that of Japan, which is renowned 3
for longevity, and was higher than that of many European countries . Notwithstanding the quality health care services, the rapidly ageing population poses enormous challenges to the current system. This article will briefly outline the challenges and present long-term solutions to this pressing issue.
Challenge: the ageing population
In accordance with the Hong Kong Population Projections 2007, the population remains on an ageing 4
trend, revealed by the ever-increasing median age from 39.6 in 2006 to 46.1 in 2036 . In the coming 3
twenty years, the ratio of adult population to elderly population will dwindle drastically from 6:1 to 3:1 ; 5
imposing an unbearable healthcare burden on future generations (See Figures 1 and 2 below).
Demographic Structure -Current
Fig. 1: Current demographic structure of Hong Kong. Adapted from: Food and Health Bureau, HKSAR Government
The challenges faced are clear and imminent: the ageing population implies that the demand for healthcare services and medical costs would be on a rapid and consistent rise with the immense 5
number of senior citizens . The public health expenditure is expected to rise from $38 billion in 2004 to 3
$127 billion in 2025 .
Improving Hong Kong: Volume 8, Autumn 2011 p8
Demographic Structure -year 2027
Fig. 2: Demographic structure of Hong Kong in 2027. Adapted from: Food and Health Bureau, HKSAR Government
Root issue: Sustainability
To cope with the growing needs of the ageing population, we need to guarantee the sustainable development of healthcare system. We must eradicate the structural weaknesses in the existing system and combat the problem through long-run measures.
Solution 1: Repositioning public healthcare services
All the time the healthcare system has laid much emphasis on hospital-oriented and curative-focused 1
services . As the old saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure”. There is an urgent need for reforming and repositioning the public healthcare service with the aim of offering more holistic primary and preventive care services which attach more importance to bettering health on the long-run instead 1
of curing illnesses . For instance, with a view to address chronic diseases in light of the ageing population, future hospitalization rate and need for in-patients services among senior citizens could be 6
reduced . It is of utmost importance to enhance health promotion and education in order to arouse public awareness of preventive care for chronic diseases. In particular, various government bureaus including Food and Health Bureau and Education Bureau should collaborate with each other in placing 6, 7
more resources on health assessment, wellness promotion, and healthy lifestyle promotion
seminars and exhibitions regarding health promotion and disease prevention would be an effective way to achieve this purpose in community. Financial subsidies could also be provided by government to chronic disease patients and the elderly on expenses of disease prevention including health checks 6
and vaccinations as a way to address the ageing population .
Solution 2: Promoting public-private partnership in healthcare services The current public sector is stretched to the limit while the private sector is not...
References: 1. Dr York Chow, the Secretary for Food and Health, HKSAR Government. Healthcare Reform Consultation and Way Forward. [online]. 2009. Available: http://www.fhb.gov.hk/beStrong/files/consultation/sfh_speech.pdf Accessed: 2011 February 16 National Center for Policy Analysis. [online]. 2009. John Goodman‟s Health Policy Blog. Available: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/hong-kong-health-care-system-is-number-one Accessed: 2011 February 16 Food and Health Bureau, HKSAR Government. Factsheet on Healthcare Reform. [online]. Available: http://www.fhb.gov.hk/beStrong/files/consultation/factsheettext_eng.pdf Accessed: 2011 February 16 Census and Statistics Department, HKSAR Government. Hong Kong Population Projections 20072036. [online]. Available: http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/200707/16/P200707160137.htm Accessed: 2011 February 16 Food and Health Bureau, HKSAR Government. Your Health. Your Life. Frequently Asked Questions. [online]. 2008. Food and Health Bureau, HKSAR Government. Report on First Stage Public http://www.fhb.gov.hk/beStrong/eng/faq/faq_faq.html Accessed: 2011 February 17 Consultation on Healthcare Reform. [online]. Available: http://www.fhb.gov.hk/beStrong/files/consultation/HCR_Report_eng.pdf Accessed: 2011 February 17 Dr York Chow, the Secretary for Food and Health, HKSAR Government. Healthcare Reform Second Stage Public Consultation [online]. 2010. Available: http://www.myhealthmychoice.gov.hk/en/index.html Accessed: 2011 February 17 HKSAR Government. The 2011-2012 Budget. Elderly Health Care Vouchers. [online]. 2011. Available: http://www.budget.gov.hk/2011/eng/budget57.html Accessed: 2011 February 24 HKSAR Government. Health and Medical Development Advisory Committee. [online]. 2008. Available: http://www.fhb.gov.hk/hmdac/english/about/background.html Accessed: 2011 February 24 Hong Kong Medical Association. Improving the health care system of Hong Kong: the Hong Kong Medical Association paper in response to the Harvard report. Hong Kong Medical Association; 1999.
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