Think tank urges health ben­e­fits for mid­dle-aged

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CAR­RIE QIU in Hong Kong car­rieqiu@chi­nadai­

One of Hong Kong’s most prom­i­nent pub­lic pol­icy think tanks urged the govern­ment to spon­sor phys­i­cal check­ups for the mid­dle-aged pop­u­la­tion and pro­vide med­i­cal al­lowances for chron­i­cally ill mem­bers of that de­mo­graphic.

The pro­posal, ad­vanced by Our Hong Kong Foun­da­tion on Tues­day, in­cluded a one-off sub­sidy of a to­tal of HK$250 mil­lion and about HK$580 mil­lion an­nual re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion sug­gested that the govern­ment hand out HK$1,000 for any­one over 45 as a one-off dole to pay for phys­i­cal check­ups to iden­tify pos­si­ble chronic dis­eases.

For peo­ple di­ag­nosed with or al­ready suf­fer­ing hyper­ten­sion and diabetes, the two most preva­lent chronic dis­eases in Hong Kong, the foun­da­tion rec­om­mends an an­nual med­i­cal sub­sidy of HK$3,040 so that pa­tients may seek pri­vate med­i­cal ser­vices, re­liev­ing some of the pressure on the city’s over­bur­dened pub­lic hos­pi­tals.

The city’s pop­u­la­tion pro­jec­tions re­veal that by 2064, the me­dian age of Hong Kong cit­i­zens will likely reach 53.5 years, with more than one in ev­ery three aged 65 or older. The age de­pen­dency ra­tio even­tu­ally will in­crease to a level where 1,000 work­ing peo­ple will sup­port 658 el­derly. That would rep­re­sent a dou­bling of the 2014 ra­tio.

Govern­ment sta­tis­tics show that the per­cent­age of Hong Kong peo­ple suf­fer­ing at least one chronic ill­ness jumps sharply for peo­ple over 45.

Yeoh Eng-kiong, di­rec­tor of the Jockey Club School of Pub­lic Health and Pri­mary Care at the Chi­nese Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong, said that peo­ple aged be­tween 45 and 64 were six times more likely to suf­fer from at least one chronic dis­ease than those aged be­tween 14 and 25, and the like­li­hood for those aged over 65 years was 18 times higher.

Yeoh, who also led the foun­da­tion’s re­search that be­came the ba­sis for the pro­posal, said that 70 per­cent of chronic dis­eases were pre­ventable.

The writ­ers of the re­port sug­gested the govern­ment in­tro­duce a Chronic Dis­ease Man­age­ment Voucher Scheme, to sup­ple­ment the pre­vail­ing El­derly Health Care Voucher Scheme.

The pre­vail­ing voucher scheme, launched in 2009, has been raised from HK$250 a year to HK$2,000 for peo­ple over 70 to help them seek med­i­cal treat­ment.

Given the cur­rent 3.5 mil­lion peo­ple aged over 45, the foun­da­tion sug­gested that the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the scheme should be in­tro­duced in phases over the next three years, firstly to cover those from low-in­come house­holds.

“Con­sider it as an in­vest­ment,” said Yeoh. “The re­turn will lower the cost from al­lo­cat­ing la­bor and fi­nan­cial re­sources for old age chronic care in the fu­ture.”

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