Newsletter No. 131

Poll Shows HK People Realistic About Financial Future H ong Kong citizens hold a realistic view o f Hong Kong's economic prospect, believing that Hong Kong will continue t o be buffeted b y th e financial crisis fo r an extended period and that i t w i ll take a fairly long time for the economy to recover, according t o a telephone survey conducted b y the Hong Kong Institute of Asia- Pacific Studies. In th e survey, th e third public opinion survey conducted in connection with issues t o b e discussed a t th e public policy forum series jointly organized by the Faculty of Social Science and the Hong Kong Institute o f Asia-Pacific Studies, 993 Hong Kong citizens were interviewed about their views on the government policy o f maintaining the peg on e year into th e Asian financial crisis. Most respondents believed that th e Hong Kong dollar should no t b e devalued because i t wou ld exacerbate the current recession, and that the government should continue its policy of maintaining the 7.8 linked exchange rate. At a press conference held on 21st August to announce the survey results, Prof. L i u Pak- wai, professor o f economics, said th e government should ward o f f speculators b y changing the rules under which stocks and futures ar e traded rather than intervening i n th e market. Increasing the margins, for example, would raise th e costs o f shorting the Hang Seng Index Futures to speculators and discourage them from entering the market, he said. The findings o f the survey, conducted o n 11t h an d 12t h August, were also discussed a t the public policy f o r um o n finance held a t th e Ch o Y i u Conference Ha ll o n 26th August. Entitled 'One Year into the Asian Financial Crisis: The Pros and Cons o f Maintaining the Linked Exchange Rate', the function attracted close t o 2 0 local academics, economists, and financial analysts f r om various sectors, who exchanged views o n th e recent economic plight o f the HKSAR and th e effectiveness o f government policies i n dealing w i th th e situation. The public policy forums series ar e held with a n aim t o foster a closer relationship between the government, academia, and th e public. They ar e also intended t o promote policy research among Un i ve r s i ty teachers so that greater involvement of scholars i n community affairs can b e achieved. Three more forums o n the themes o f industry, environment, an d education have been scheduled for the next three months. Short Course in Outcomes and Effectiveness Research C lose t o 8 0 health administrators, doctors, and allied professionals participated in the Short Course i n Outcomes an d Effectiveness Research organized by the University's Department of Commun i ty an d Fami ly Medicine an d th e School o f Hygiene and Public Health o f Johns Hopkins University from 10th t o 12th July 1998 a t th e Wong Foo Yuan Building. Prof. Joseph Lee, dean o f medicine, presided at the opening ceremony. The course provided a n introduction t o th e methods and issues involved i n medical effectiveness and outcomes research, and identified, compared, and tested medical and health technologies and practices in the broad clinical population. Th e course's teachers were Prof. Neil Powe, Ms. Nancy Fink, and Dr. Daumit Gail from Johns Hopkins University. Prof. Suzanne Ho o f The Chinese University was the course coordinator. Effort st o Preserv e Sigh Eye Care Under Probe a tInternational Symposium Some 180 ophthalmologists from all over the world participated i n an international symposium entitled 'Th e Challenges o f Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences i n th e Next Millennium' t o discuss recent eye care developments. The event which took place from 20th to 23rd August 1998 at the Hotel Furama Kempinski was organized by the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. World leading experts i n th e field o f glaucoma, a disease recognized as th e number one cause o f blindness i n Hong Kong, presented their views on the next generation of therapeutic strategies for glaucoma while others discussed the role of neuroprotection and gene therapy fo r the treatment o f the disease. The symposium also featured talks on new treatments fo r diabetic retinopathy, and laser therapy f o r age-related macular degeneration an d myopic degeneration, tw o major causes o f blindness i n Hong Kong. New diagnostic techniques an d treatment fo r common retinal diseases were also discussed, including th e use o f Multifocal ERG t o detect retinal diseases a t their early stage. Diagrammatic drawing of an eyeball showing untreated retinal defects and resulting retinal detachment Retinal detachment in a severely myopic eye with an undiagnosed retinal hole Severe Shortsightedness a Threat t o Sight, Study Finds Prior to the symposium, the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences also organized a n ey e screening service fo r individuals suffering from severe shortsightedness, i.e., 600 degrees o r above. Project leader Prof. Dennis Lam pointed out that persons with severe myopia are known t o have higher risks o f retinal breaks, retinal detachment, open angle glaucoma, and cataract, but little i s known about ho w many o f these sight threatening conditions exist undetected. O f the 383 eyes with a mean shortsightedness o f 1,000 degrees screened in the project, retinal breaks were detected in close to eight per cent, and retinal detachment was detected i n one eye. But most alarmingly, only half of the patients with problems showed symptoms o f the problems. Retinal breaks can be treated easily and successfully with laser therapy. Without timely treatment, however, retinal breaks and retinal detachment may lead to blindness. Eye Research T he following two eye projects proposed by staff of the University have succeeded i n obtaining financial support from different quarters: O Hong Kong Study on Visual Disability in the Aged Population (HK$807,660) Sponsor: International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, National Eye Institute Investigators: Prof. John Michon, Dr. Joseph Lau O Epidemiology o fSchool Myopia inHong Kong: Prevalence, Incidence and Risk Factors Analysis (HK$705,985) Sponsor: Health Services Research Fund Investigators: Prof. Dennis Lam, Dr. Joseph Lau