PRAISE-HK Newsletter Issue 201703
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Personalized Real-time Air quality Informatics System for Exposure – Hong Kong (PRAISE-HK) is a 5-year project funded by the HSBC 150th Anniversary Charity Program. Led by HKUST’s Institute for the Environment, PRAISE-HK aims to develop an online platform and a mobile app, to empower the public with personalized air quality information. It will allow users to plan their daily commute or activities with the lowest health risk from air pollution.

Ways to join us: 

In this newsletter we are featuring the first PRAISE-INSIGHT article. PRAISE-INSIGHT is an article series dedicated to exploring technological innovations and policies in protecting public health from air pollution. Through engaging a very wide range of medical professions, civil engineers, computer science and meteorology modeling experts, PRAISE-INSIGHT offers a uniquely macro perspective on the intersection where air pollution and public health connect.
Air pollution's invisible hand on public health
By Dr. Roland Leung – respiratory medicine specialist; Co-chair of the Immunology Subcommittee in Hong Kong Institute of Allergy

Another month, another new shocking photo of China city's smog does the rounds in the media. However these pictures do not show what the sensitive (or allergic) group has always 'felt', that air pollution can really impact your health.

A number of time series studies in Hong Kong all showed clear association between increase in the levels of major pollutants, including PM10 and NO2, and rise in respiratory symptoms, accident and emergency room attendance, and hospitalization for asthma and  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The presenting symptoms ranged from runny nose, sneezing fits, nasal congestion on the mild end of the spectrum, to persistent cough that disturbs sleep, sputum production, shortness of breath, and wheeze on the severe end.

Between December and February when air pollution tends to be at its worst in Hong Kong, more patients, particularly young children and the elderly, requires hospitalization. In my private practice as a Respiratory Physician in Hong Kong in the past 20 years, I also regularly see 20-30% increase in patient visits with allergic rhinitis, bronchitis, asthma, and COPD, the few days following smoggy weather with high Air Quality Health Impact (AQHI).

There is however good news. It is clear that measures taken by the environmental protection authorities in both China and Hong Kong to curb air pollution are working. Strategies and policies directed at major emission sources in Hong Kong (motor vehicles, marine vessels, and power plants) have succeeded in a marked decrease in ambient and roadside air pollution between 1999 and 2015, according to data from the Environmental Protection Department (EPD).  A welcome drop in all major pollutants, except ozone, in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region has also been noted.

What is not clear is whether this improving trend in Hong Kong's air quality have successfully translated into better health outcomes in the region. As a respiratory physician, I am interested in pushing for greater disclosure of public health information, such as patient data for respiratory and cardiovascular disease, detailed air pollution measurements of the patients' living environments and so on.

The EPD is undergoing a comprehensive review to update the Air Quality Objective (AQO) by 2020. This review is an opportunity to gather together such data to benchmark and determine the effectiveness of the current various policies. I call on EPD to use the review to bring together the best expertise across Hong Kong in co-designing more novel, effective, and practical strategies, and delivering a sustained improvement in the health not just for patients but everyone - you, me and the future generations of Hong Kong.
World Asthma Day (2 May 2017)
The Theme of the World Asthma Day 2017 is "Better Air, Better Breathing". More news and event details in Hong Kong will be available soon. Please stay tuned for more updates!

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Institute for the Environment, HKUST | All rights reserved

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Institute for the Environment, HKUST · The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Clear Water Bay · Kowloon · Hong Kong

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