CUHK launches The Jockey Club We WATCH Healthy Lifestyle Project
– Hong Kong’s first lifestyle medicine initiative to fight chronic disease among the middle-aged
To help middle-aged people improve their lifestyles to prevent or delay the occurrence of chronic disease, The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s Faculty of Medicine (CU Medicine), along with four local non-governmental organisations – Christian Family Service Centre, St. James’ Settlement, United Christian Nethersole Community Health Service and Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association – have launched The Jockey Club We WATCH Healthy Lifestyle Project (the “Project”). Funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, it is Hong Kong’s first public health initiative to apply lifestyle medicine to combat chronic diseases. The Project will run from 2023 to 2025 and aims to engage over 20,000 individuals in health-risk screening. It will provide health coaching for those who are at greatest risk of chronic disease.
Putting “prevention is better than cure” into practice among the middle-aged
The Project adopts a lifestyle medicine approach that aims to improve eligible participants’ living habits through non-drug and non-surgical methods. Eligible participants who are identified as being at high risk of chronic disease will receive tailored health coaching that spans areas including exercise, nutrition, mental health, and quitting tobacco and alcohol. This will allow them to cultivate a greater awareness of their health and learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent or delay chronic diseases.
Dr Libby Lee, Under Secretary for Health of the Health Bureau, remarked at the Project’s launch ceremony, “Development of primary healthcare is one of the most important polices of our Government. Through which, we aim to change the health-seeking behaviour of our citizens when they manage their health. Primary healthcare development triggers off the reform of our healthcare system. I am happy that the We WATCH Healthy Lifestyle Project shares the same vision. Everyone should be responsible for their own health and the healthcare professionals are the guardian angels in their health journey. I look forward to the success of the project and hope all the participants will find their entrusted companions to support each other in building their own healthy life.”
Ms Imelda Chan, Head of Charities (Healthy Community) at The Hong Kong Jockey Club, said, “The increase in middle-aged patients in Hong Kong has put heavy pressure on the medical system. In view of this, the Club supported CUHK in launching The Jockey Club We WATCH Healthy Lifestyle project, which adopts a ‘lifestyle medicine’ approach to help middle-aged people improve their living habits and effectively prevent and reduce their risk of chronic diseases. This project will promote close collaboration with the Government and non-profit organisations to strengthen district-based primary medical and health services, thereby improving the quality of life of citizens and building a healthier society for Hong Kong.
“While Hong Kong people may be unfamiliar with the term ‘lifestyle medicine’, its efficacy has long been clinically recognised, and it is widely adopted around the world due to its significant impact on the prevention of chronic diseases,” said Professor Samuel Wong, Associate Dean (Education) at CU Medicine and Director of The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care. “We understand that Hong Kong people are hard-working but have no time to take care of their health. An increasingly rapid pace of life is one of the major factors that affect one’s health, so we hope to promote healthy habits in people’s daily lives to minimise the risk of chronic diseases and alleviate the burden on the public healthcare system in the long run.”
Identifying potential risks early
Participants in the Project are aged between 35 and 59, and undergo health checks such as blood tests following an initial health-risk screening. Eligible participants who are identified as being at high risk of chronic disease are invited to receive personalised health coaching for six months. Health coaches arrange one-on-one meetings with participants and design core programmes according to their health risks and interests. Participants are also given smart watches, so they can track their health and exercise data during the programme, and continuously monitor changes in their health. The Project is still open for application to eligible middle-aged people and is free of charge. More information is provided in the appendix.
Trial has screened 6,700 people
A trial has been running since April 2023. As at October 31, the Project had provided health-risk screenings to over 6,700 people, among whom 2,300 were advised to undergo further health checks, and accepted; all of them were identified as being at relatively high or high risk of developing chronic disease. Some 92% of those who were in the relatively higher risk group were eligible for health coaching under the Project, while the remaining 185 people (8% of the total) in the high risk group were given their screening reports so they could seek medical advice.
Over 80% of participants are working individuals
Among participants eligible for health coaching, over 80% are working individuals, among whom 63% work over 40 hours per week and 12% over 50 hours. Meanwhile, the Project has initially found that the dietary and physical activity habits of 87% and 33% of participants, respectively, were not up to standard, which could increase their risk of chronic disease in the future.
The Project not only helps middle-aged people improve their lifestyle habits, but also aims to collect more evidence-based data on the impact of lifestyle medicine in Hong Kong, in order to help our community build knowledge and capabilities in health coaching, and provide the public with more options and resources to prevent chronic diseases in the long run.