Newsletter No. 141

CH I for Quality Housing at Affordable Prices in China T he Centre for Housing Innovations (CHI) of the Department of Architecture, supported by the Ministry of Construction (MOC), was formally established on 18th December 1998 in Beijing. Its inauguration ceremony and first conference took place at the headquarters of the MOC. Participants included minister and vice- minister of the MOC, former and current chairmen of the Committee for Science and Technology (STC) of the MOC, director of the Real Estate Department of the MOC, Secretary for Works of the HKSAR government, and president of the Hong Kong Construction Association Limited. In June 1998, the Chinese government announced a housing policy guided by the market system to replace the welfare system it had administered for the past several decades. People are now required to purchase their own apartments, through mortgages with banks or by other means. Thus, it is important to pursue innovative architectural technologies to provide affordable housing with the best value, within the country's current economic and technical constraints. The CHI integrates housing information, technology, and experience from Hong Kong and mainland China. The large body of research results and experience provides valuable lessons for improving the building standards and quality of affordable housing in mainland China. Moreover, overseas architects, engineers, and developers can participate in both research and actual housing projects. In this way, the CHI provides a clearinghouse for collaboration among international professionals in the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction. The officers of the CHI are leading figures in government and academia. The honorary chairmen are Song Chunhua, vice-minister of the MOC; H.S. Kwong, Secretary for Works of the HKSAR; and Arthur Li, vice-chancellor of The Chinese University. The executive chairmen are Xu Peifu, chairman of the STC; and Tunney Lee, Emeritus Professor of Architecture, CUHK. Survey Questions 'Are they sick in the body or the mind?' A recent survey conducted by the University's Departments of Psychiatry and Commun i ty & Fami ly Medicine found that over a fifth of patients attending primary care clinics were actually mentally sick but manifested physical rather than psychological symptoms and were treated accordingly. Mental illness has always constituted a major part of the physicians' workload worldwide. The survey, conducted in 13 private and public primary care clinics, detected a 21 per cent prevalence of mental disorders among 1,300 patients aged 16 to 64. Of these, somatoform disorder, depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder were the most pre- dominant. Women were consistently more commonly affected, especially in somatoform disorder. Age, however, was apparently not an important association factor. The findings are similar to those elsewhere in the world. It is not uncommon that primary care physicians under- recognize mental disorders. Yet the situation may be more serious in Hong Kong where mental illness still carries a significant degree of stigma. Patients often are not ready to accept psychological causes for physical symptoms. Likewise, doctors who are constrained by time in the exploration of psychological issues may treat only the physical symptoms. The management of mental illness needs in- depth training which has been difficult to acquire. With an aim of detecting mental disorders among primary care clinic attendees and providing them with proper treatment, the two departments translated into Chinese a simple, reliable, and time- saving questionnaire to assist physicians detect mental disorders at the early stage. The two departments are also currently running a pilot programme for local physicians to refresh and update their skills in the diagnosis and management of mental disorders. Partnership wi th SmarTone and Ericsson to Boost Mobile Communications (From left) Prof. Arthur K.C. Li, vice-chancellor of the University; Mr. Hubert Ng, chief executive officer of SmarTone; and Stephen Yeung, managing director of Ericsson T he University recently signed a memorandum of understanding with SmarTone and Ericsson for the research and development of added-value mobile data applications over the GSM and/or third-generation mobile network for Hong Kong and other markets. It includes setting up a research team, developing prototypes, providing network environment support, conducting user trials, and marketing and funding arrangements. The memorandum represents an important step for mobile data applications, widely seen as the cornerstone for the next big advance in mobile communications. It is also the first academia- industry initiative, involving a prestigious institution of higher learning, a major global telecommunications group, and a leading mobile communications operator in Hong Kong, that is specifically aimed at mobile data applications. The signing ceremony took place on 28th January. Prof. Arthur K.C. L i predicted on the occasion that the collaboration between academia and the private sector would boost the mobile communications industry and enable consumers to e joy greater mobility. Young Onset Diabetes Associated w i t h Genetics A study by the Faculty of Medicine found that diabetes among the Chinese is different from diabetes among Caucasians in that it affects many young people. Diabetes mellitus is usually regarded as an aging and lifestyle disease closely related to obesity and physical inactivity. The study however reveals that it has a strong genetic background, particularly among Chinese patients with young onset, i.e., before age 40. More worrying is that there is a trend showing an increasing number of young onset diabetics. Twenty- eight per cent of the diabetic patients attending the Prince of Wales Hospital had their illness diagnosed before the age of 40. The mean age of newly diagnosed patients is 50 compared with 57 in 1990. Over 55 per cent of patients with young onset have positive family history compared with 40 per cent in the older onset group. High blood glucose and duration of disease are the main factors for diabetic complications. High blood glucose maintained for over five years destroys blood vessels and may lead to widespread organ failure. Young patients face a long duration of the disease, usually over 20 years, and can suffer from severe complications later in life. Screening for diabetes in high risk individuals and optimal control of risk factors are essential in preventing the onset and progression of diabetic complications. Since genetic factors play a critical role in the development of the disease, finding the genes will help to identify the exact cause of diabetes and its potential cure. The faculty is currently using state- of-the-art genome search techniques to trace the genetic origin of diabetes.