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Health Management x Symbiotic Community Health

Text: Dr. Fan Ning (Founder and Chairman, Health in Action) | Translation by: Stacy Mosher

 

 

Hong Kong society demands fairness and progress, and everyone desires a healthy life. But health is more than a slogan, and is not the responsibility of doctors and nurses alone. In fact, through empowerment, each person can manage his or her own health. Not only that, they can manage the health of their families and even lead their friends and others around them to understand the importance of health management. That’s why Health in Action, on the principle of putting people and families first, wants to bring the health management ethos to the Kwai Tsing community and provide services to the neediest and most neglected.

 

We understand that working poor families lack health information and don't know how to handle health problems, much less do they have the resources to deal with the consequences of illness. Financial limitations and the skyrocketing cost of living have taken an increasing toll on the overall quality of life of families, while their health indicators have also suffered, forming a vicious circle. Our cross-disciplinary professional health teams take a whole-family approach to provide timely and opportune services to individual family members.

 

Over the past four years, Health in Action has focused its work on breaking through the vicious circle and putting working poor families back on track to pursuing the healthy lives they should enjoy. At the same time, we upgraded the concept of health professional and community cooperation to one of "symbiotic community health": What this means is that the work of doctors and nurses should be guided by the "social determinants of health" in the served community, and that social services must be given priority if the community and health professionals are to collaborate in bringing about sustained change. In this way we can build a cooperative relationship of mutual trust, mutual aid and mutual referral between members of the community, other social welfare groups and frontline operatives of the Hospital Authority to collectively deal with the health issues that working poor families face.

 

Operating under the concept of "symbiotic community health," we emphasize the role of social workers in promoting heath and currently cooperate with more than ten social welfare organizations and hospitals. They help to solve health-related social factors that working poor families face, such as living environment, food and water safety, workplace safety, mental stress, community relationships, and access to community support services and medical services. Appropriately handling these factors is a key determinant in the health of working poor families.

 

Our client survey in 2017* revealed that 46.6% of the people we serve are overweight, and 35.6% are obese; 13.3% have elevated cholesterol levels, among whom 16% have elevated low-density lipoprotein; 27% suffer from hypertension; and 56.2% have chronic pain or illnesses. All of these figures are noticeably higher than the average for Hong Kong residents in the same age groups. When they seek out public health services, they encounter a range of difficulties, including making appointments for outpatient services during daytime hours (62.0%), having to go to work during the day (32.0%), and making appointments during evening hours (20.0%). As a result, the proportion who seek out private doctors when they are ill (55.4%) is higher than those who join the queue for public outpatient services (44.6%). These figures reflect the socially-determined health inequities faced by working poor families. With the support of the Fu Tak Iam Foundation, in 2016 and 2017 alone, 849 members of working poor families have directly participated in various types of health management workshops; 519 people have received timely professional health consultations / family health management services, follow-up and home visits / medical subsidies that also covered mental health services.

 

Community members who have taken part in Health in Action health programme have all commended our service quality and affirm the changes that these services have brought to the way they manage their health. Here I would especially like to thank our social workers and multi-disciplinary team.

 

When the government realized the need for Hong Kong to develop primary health care services and promote cooperation between health professional and the community, and made Kwai Tsing a pilot project for establishing a health centre, Health in Action, with the Foundation’s support, had already developed a primary health care model based on symbiotic community health, geared toward prevention, and carried out through empowered self management of health. We have constantly submitted views to the government on the development of primary health care. Over the past four years, we have been taking part in a HKCSS research project, Poverty in Focus 2015: Going Beyond Financial Assistance, a New Approach on Poverty Alleviation. Our 2017 Kwai Tsing District Grassroots Working Families Cardiovascular Risk and Health Survey was incorporated into a public health teaching packet of the Education Department’s teaching resources for Current Affairs in Secondary Education, and was directly submitted to the Hospital Authority, Department of Health, and organizations and services concerned with working poor families.

 

With the establishment of the Kwai Tsing Community Health Management Hub, Health in Action will be shouldering an even heavier responsibility in the time ahead. My team (including volunteers of all backgrounds) shares my dream that health is a right that every person should enjoy, and that needs to be defended by our work.

 

 

*Survey on Cardiovascular Risk and Health of grassroots working families in Kwai Tsing, 2017

 

 

Read more "Doctors are not invincible!"

 

 

 

Hong Kong society demands fairness and progress, and everyone desires a healthy life. But health is more than a slogan, and is not the responsibility of doctors and nurses alone. In fact, through empowerment, each person can manage his or her own health. Not only that, they can manage the health of their families and even lead their friends and others around them to understand the importance of health management. That’s why Health in Action, on the principle of putting people and families first, wants to bring the health management ethos to the Kwai Tsing community and provide services to the neediest and most neglected.

 

We understand that working poor families lack health information and don't know how to handle health problems, much less do they have the resources to deal with the consequences of illness. Financial limitations and the skyrocketing cost of living have taken an increasing toll on the overall quality of life of families, while their health indicators have also suffered, forming a vicious circle. Our cross-disciplinary professional health teams take a whole-family approach to provide timely and opportune services to individual family members.

 

Over the past four years, Health in Action has focused its work on breaking through the vicious circle and putting working poor families back on track to pursuing the healthy lives they should enjoy. At the same time, we upgraded the concept of health professional and community cooperation to one of "symbiotic community health": What this means is that the work of doctors and nurses should be guided by the "social determinants of health" in the served community, and that social services must be given priority if the community and health professionals are to collaborate in bringing about sustained change. In this way we can build a cooperative relationship of mutual trust, mutual aid and mutual referral between members of the community, other social welfare groups and frontline operatives of the Hospital Authority to collectively deal with the health issues that working poor families face.

 

Operating under the concept of "symbiotic community health," we emphasize the role of social workers in promoting heath and currently cooperate with more than ten social welfare organizations and hospitals. They help to solve health-related social factors that working poor families face, such as living environment, food and water safety, workplace safety, mental stress, community relationships, and access to community support services and medical services. Appropriately handling these factors is a key determinant in the health of working poor families.

 

Our client survey in 2017* revealed that 46.6% of the people we serve are overweight, and 35.6% are obese; 13.3% have elevated cholesterol levels, among whom 16% have elevated low-density lipoprotein; 27% suffer from hypertension; and 56.2% have chronic pain or illnesses. All of these figures are noticeably higher than the average for Hong Kong residents in the same age groups. When they seek out public health services, they encounter a range of difficulties, including making appointments for outpatient services during daytime hours (62.0%), having to go to work during the day (32.0%), and making appointments during evening hours (20.0%). As a result, the proportion who seek out private doctors when they are ill (55.4%) is higher than those who join the queue for public outpatient services (44.6%). These figures reflect the socially-determined health inequities faced by working poor families. With the support of the Fu Tak Iam Foundation, in 2016 and 2017 alone, 849 members of working poor families have directly participated in various types of health management workshops; 519 people have received timely professional health consultations / family health management services, follow-up and home visits / medical subsidies that also covered mental health services.

 

Community members who have taken part in Health in Action health programme have all commended our service quality and affirm the changes that these services have brought to the way they manage their health. Here I would especially like to thank our social workers and multi-disciplinary team.

 

When the government realized the need for Hong Kong to develop primary health care services and promote cooperation between health professional and the community, and made Kwai Tsing a pilot project for establishing a health centre, Health in Action, with the Foundation’s support, had already developed a primary health care model based on symbiotic community health, geared toward prevention, and carried out through empowered self management of health. We have constantly submitted views to the government on the development of primary health care. Over the past four years, we have been taking part in a HKCSS research project, Poverty in Focus 2015: Going Beyond Financial Assistance, a New Approach on Poverty Alleviation. Our 2017 Kwai Tsing District Grassroots Working Families Cardiovascular Risk and Health Survey was incorporated into a public health teaching packet of the Education Department’s teaching resources for Current Affairs in Secondary Education, and was directly submitted to the Hospital Authority, Department of Health, and organizations and services concerned with working poor families.

 

With the establishment of the Kwai Tsing Community Health Management Hub, Health in Action will be shouldering an even heavier responsibility in the time ahead. My team (including volunteers of all backgrounds) shares my dream that health is a right that every person should enjoy, and that needs to be defended by our work.

 

 

*Survey on Cardiovascular Risk and Health of grassroots working families in Kwai Tsing, 2017

 

 

Read more "Doctors are not invincible!"