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Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022

Low-income families at risk of chronic health issues

Findings from health checks under the Manulife Health Voucher Program reveal that the breadwinners of grassroot families are prone to obesity, the “three hypers,” unhealthy lifestyles and poor mental wellbeing, calling for early detection, intervention and prevention.
As the pandemic takes a toll on low-income families with unemployment and income cuts that aggravate their reluctance to seek medical treatment, Manulife Hong Kong launched the Manulife Health Voucher Program, the city’s first business-sponsored health voucher charity program in partnership with Christian Family Service Centre (CFSC) in March 2021.

Launched in five low-income districts – Kwun Tong, Eastern District, Sham Shui Po, Tin Shui Wai, Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing – the program aims to support 2,000 beneficiaries from underprivileged families with free health screening and consultation, plus a choice of seven follow-up healthcare options: GP consultation, physiotherapy, body checks, nutrition consultation, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and dental care.

In the first phase of the program, data from 399 beneficiaries in Kwun Tong revealed that 56 percent have symptoms of at least one of the “three hypers” (hypertension, hyperglycemia and hypercholesterolemia), which can lead to chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

Alarmingly, the young and middle-aged are also at risk, with 40 percent of the beneficiaries between 18 and 39 years old diagnosed with at least one symptom of the three hypers, compared to 61 percent between 40 to 59 years old. Among them, 72 percent are male and 52 percent are female.

In addition, over half of them are overweight or obese, and again men (71 percent) fare worse than women (54 percent.) Unhealthy lifestyles are prevalent among those with the three hypers, with widespread drinking (77 percent) and smoking (66 percent), combined with a lack of exercise (57 percent) and inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables (58 percent.)

Beneficiaries also suffer from poor mental wellbeing, including lack of energy (66 percent) and sleeping disorders (59 percent), with 12 percent admitting to having suicidal thoughts.

One of the beneficiaries is Ms Wu, who found that she has hyperglycemia. She is currently receiving treatment under the government specialist healthcare system.

“I was unaware of any health problems except that I am always hungry and that I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my second child,” she said. “I never had any medical check-up before and I am thankful that the program helped me find out the hidden health issues and offered me the chance to receive timely treatment.”

Isabella Lau, Chief Customer Officer of Manulife Hong Kong says, “Early detection, early intervention and raising awareness of preventive healthcare are all vital, as chronic illnesses require years of expensive treatment that not only causes a heavy blow to vulnerable families both financially and emotionally.”

“We are pleased to see a great turnout in the first phase of the Health Voucher Program, thanks to the expertise of CFSC and the program’s comprehensiveness that give beneficiaries the flexibility to choose the healthcare service they need.”

Angel Chan, Assistant Chief Executive of CFSC, added: “We see the Health Voucher Program as an important step on the journey to better health and wellbeing. We will continue to work with Manulife, as well as our other community partners, to support those in need and build a healthier community for everyone.”

The Manulife Health Voucher Program will continue to roll out in Island East District, Sham Shui Po and Tin Shui Wai and is expected to complete by April 2022.

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