Listen out for #Hashtag Hong Kong, on Sunday mornings. Our new programme updates the old format and content of Letter to Hong Kong.
The focus will be on issues affecting civil society, as we hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies and non-profit groups.
And each week there'll also be a musical choice*!
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
*The song is not included in its entity in the podcast due to copyright issue.
From the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19 until now, we have launched various surveys to understand the effects of the pandemic on children, parents, and parenting.
During school suspensions, children had to stay at home, meaning parents had to reorganize childcare. 80% of parents were worried about their children’s development. 70% of them expressed their concerns about their children’s learning progress via online means. 65% of parents were concerned about the social skills development of their children due to no peer interaction. More than 70% revealed concerns about the risks of them and their children being infected with COVID-19. The parents indicated that their work and social lives had been significantly disrupted because of social distancing measures in Hong Kong. The parents were stressed out.
Moreover, it was found that parent-child relationships had deteriorated. More than 60% of parents said that they had more frequent arguments with their children since kids were more prone to have emotional and behavioral problems due to the stressors of the pandemic. In particular, young children under 6 are vulnerable to developmental shocks resulting from the pandemic because of a confluence of risk factors. These factors include delays in healthcare visits, lost access to child care and early education programmes, and economic-related hardship.
Fear, uncertainty, and being holed up at home more to slow the spread of COVID-19 can make it tough for families to keep a sense of calm. It’s therefore specially important to help children feel safe, maintain a healthy routine, manage their emotions and behaviors, and build resilience.
Parents should address the fear of their children, and answering their questions about the pandemic age appropriately.
Keep predictable routines even under school suspension in order to keep up the momentum of children’s lives. Parents can structure play, learning, exercise, nap, and reading time during school closures.
It’s important to spend quality time with relatives and loved ones with different means like Facetime, WhatsApp, writing letters, or YouTube videos. These practices will maintain good social interaction with others. At least, social skills can be practiced in the usage of social media.
It is normal that children will act out more often under stress, anxiety, or fear through their behaviors during the pandemic which can in turn upset parents, particularly if they are already stressed. It is highly recommend that parents to use positive parenting to regulate children's misbehaviour. It means parents should acknowledge the wants behind the misbehaviours of their children, speak aloud about the feelings or wants of their children, and suggest timely alternative behaviours to them.
In order to face the challenges together with parents, our organization has launched different kinds of services to respond to their needs. For lessening the stresses of parents on children’s learning, we have developed home-based learning materials via our community centres for the families. Parents can use these materials, performing the role of their children’s first teachers and lead their kids to learn age-appropriate knowledge at home. In turn, the parent-child relationship will keep upbeat with the help of these interactive, fun, and meaningful learning activities. For soothing the high tension of the parents under the pandemic, our Parent Wellness Project has offered online wellness programmes to assist them to get their own “me-time”. The parents can put aside their work and communicate with their inner-self. For less fortunate families, such as low-income families, young parent families, families with mental health issues, or having children with special educational needs, their difficulties are much more than for other families during the past 2 years of the pandemic. We have continuously provided anti-pandemic measures, meal allowances, limited face-to-face parent-child services and online interactive services.
Whatever our circumstances, this period is tough on our mental health and our relationships. We may face challenges with our children but perhaps also opportunities to get to understand our children better, to learn new things together, and to be together as a family.
And now I have a song I'd like to dedicate to all of you listening. My song is: 姜濤嘅 蒙著嘴說愛你
The Hong Kong Lung Foundation is a charitable organization, run by a group of experienced Specialists in Respiratory Medicine since 1996. The objectives of the Foundation include enhancement of professional development of respiratory-related health care professionals and promotion of respiratory health in Hong Kong. One of the key activities of the Foundation is to provide public education on contemporary issues relating to various lung conditions.
The negative impact of smoking as a cause of various health problems has been very well known for decades. These include lung infections (e.g. pneumonia, tuberculosis), cancers (e.g. lung cancer), lung function decline (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), coronary artery disease, stoke etc. Despite global conjoint efforts in the battle against tobacco use, many parts of the world (especially those low-income countries) are still heavily affected by high smoking prevalence. World No Tobacco Day on 31 May is an annual initiative under the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against the tobacco epidemic.
In Hong Kong, we have witnessed a decreasing trend of smoking prevalence over the years, but it has become rather stagnant over the last couple of years at around 10% of people aged 15 years or above. Apart from conventional tobacco products, the newly emerged electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes) have posed worrisome health hazards to communities across the globe including Hong Kong. E-cigarettes appear in various trendy devices and the vapour comes in many different flavours. The manufacturing companies have tried to promote E-cigarettes with a completely different image from conventional tobacco products, emphasizing what they say is their low health risks and benefits in favouring smoking cessation. In particular, this marketing strategy targets teenagers and youngsters, who may not be able to perceive serious health hazards in disguise. In recent years, many scientific reports have already identified toxic chemicals from E-cigarettes as potential carcinogens leading to cancer development. Inhalation of these chemicals from heated devices have led to reported cases of serious lung injury in the United States and elsewhere. The long-term consequences of vaping are still undefined, but very likely result in irreversible damage to lung function. With the current marketing strategy of E-cigarettes, it is anticipated that more and more children and adolescents may start picking up the smoking habit with E-cigarettes, leading to a new wave of the smoking epidemic. As a result, the Government of the Hong Kong SAR has just banned the importation and sale of E-cigarettes starting from the end of April.
One of the long-term effects of cigarette smoking is the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), i.e. emphysema and chronic bronchitis. This is a result of inflammation and destruction of airways and lungs, leading to progressive decline in lung function which will limit daily activities. Over the years, COPD has remained a common condition among smokers especially those above 40 years of age and it is often undiagnosed in the early stages. The non-specific symptoms of chronic cough, sputum production and shortness of breath are often accepted norms in smokers, leading to delayed diagnosis and management until complications arise. In fact, COPD is a single medical condition that accounts for a winter surge of overwhelming hospital admissions due to acute attacks. Apart from early pharmacological treatment, the most notable measure to abort the rapid lung function loss in COPD remains smoking cessation which should be advocated no matter what stage of disease that the subjects are experiencing.
In order to reduce morbidity and mortality related to smoking, the Hong Kong Government should focus on several measures. Effective anti-smoking education, especially targeting vulnerable groups like teenagers, is crucial. Resources allocated specifically in the development and research of novel techniques in effective public education may need to be increased. Following the recent ban on importation and sale of E-cigarettes, strategies on preventing illegal importation will become important. It would be far better to take stringent steps now to ensure no access to E-cigarettes among teenagers before this has become an established habit. Regarding tobacco products, increased taxation remains an effective measure to reduce the smoking prevalence in the community.
With the concerted efforts of all people in Hong Kong and the policymakers, we should continue aiming at a further reduction in smoking among the population.