April 25, 2024

Letter | Hope for Hong Kong on student mental health lies in collective action

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Earlier this year, the government announced the results of a comprehensive survey of Hong Kong’s schoolchildren. The worrying percentage of students with suicidal ideation and the number of attempted suicides call for urgent action. In response, the Department of Health has increased its focus on the emotional and mental health needs of students by providing enhanced individual counselling and guidance through student health service centres.

In the 2022-23 academic year, the Adolescent Health Programme team visited 279 secondary schools to promote psychosocial well-being and equip students with life skills to better cope with stress. However, it is clear that more needs to be done.

The survey’s findings regarding other health issues, such as being overweight and declining vision, further emphasise the need for a comprehensive approach to student well-being. Addressing these concerns requires collaboration among schools, parents, healthcare professionals and policymakers.

In addition to the existing initiatives, it is crucial to prioritise mental health education and awareness programmes in schools. Providing students with the necessary tools and resources to recognise and cope with stress, anxiety and depression can make a significant difference. Moreover, ensuring access to quality healthcare services, including mental health support, should be a priority for policymakers.

To further support students, it is important to implement artificial intelligence-powered programmes that can educate parents about recognising and addressing mental health issues in their children. By leveraging technology, we can provide accessible resources and guidance to parents, helping them cultivate positive parenting practices that support their children’s well-being.

Furthermore, fostering peer support and interaction among students is vital. Schools can promote the formation of support groups where students can openly discuss their challenges and provide mutual support. Peer mentoring programmes can also be implemented to connect older students with younger ones, creating a sense of community and offering guidance and encouragement.

More time should be allocated to meaningful engagement between students and teachers. Reducing the administrative burden on teachers and increasing classroom support staff can free up time for educators to focus on building strong relationships with their students. This can be achieved through smaller class sizes, enabling teachers to provide individualised attention, identify struggling students and offer timely support.

The successful experiences of other countries can also provide valuable insights. Ultimately, tackling these issues requires a multifaceted approach involving the collaboration of various stakeholders. Together, we can create a supportive and nurturing educational environment that promotes the well-being of every student.

Ilnur Minakhmetov, Jordan

Sharing of medical records via eHealth can be optimised

The upcoming budget speech will no doubt allocate resources to healthcare. To strengthen the role of the eHealth system in enhancing public health services in Hong Kong, the government should ensure timely updates of patient records and issue clear guidelines about using eHealth records.

Despite the significant increase in patient enrolment in the eHealth system from 653,717 in 2020 to 5,788,123 in 2023, the usage rate among healthcare professionals remains low. On average, each private healthcare professional only uses the eHealth app 15 times a month.

A frontline doctor has pointed out that the sharing of medical records of eHealth participants requires further optimisation. To begin with, patients need to authorise each private clinic separately to access and share their medical records through eHealth. To simplify matters, the eHealth administrator should allow patients to authorise all their medical records to be shared among all medical professionals enrolled in eHealth in one go.

In addition, while healthcare professionals are expected to share the medical records in eHealth in a timely manner, in practice doctors may have to wait a week before accessing a patient’s updated records from another healthcare provider via eHealth. It would be helpful if eHealth administrators could set a timeline for record updates to prevent such delays.

Although the government issued a Code of Practice for Using Electronic Health Record for Healthcare, this document mainly deals with technical, logistical and security issues. It does not specifically recommend that the shared eHealth records should be consulted to make clinical decisions.

To encourage more healthcare professionals to use the eHealth platform, the Health Bureau should support research and provide training on how comprehensive and updated eHealth records could create additional value for medical practicioners. Such efforts are essential to ensuring that the funding for developing and maintaining the eHealth system is fully justifiable.

Holly Chik and Carly Chu, Kowloon Tong

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