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With the emerge of SARS, MERS, Ebola and most recently COVID-19, people working in a public health discipline play an important role in providing advice to government for public health measures and public education in mitigating the risk of infection spreading locally and globally. At the vanguard of public health education, the JC School of Public Health and Primary Care of the Faculty of Medicine has launched the first public health undergraduate programme in Hong Kong, Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSc in Public Health), in 2009.

Besides infectious disease, there is a range of public health issues threatening our health and capacity of health system including climate changes, increasing epidemiology of chronic disease, challenges with ageing population, occupational safety, drug abuse, internet addiction, mental health, unhealthy lifestyle, and sustainability of healthcare financing and service provision, etc.

The curriculum of the BSc in Public Health Programme provides students who have an interest in public health with passion and valuable insight into population health issues. Students can expect to gain knowledge, skill and value aspects in the following areas: social determinants of health, environmental impact on health, healthy lifestyles, public health law and ethics, biostatistics and epidemiology fundamentals, emergency preparedness and disaster response, infectious diseases, and health services reform.

Championing Public Health through Education

Globalization, epidemics, environmental degradation and poverty are just a few of the factors affecting our public health policies and practices. Today, many well-established universities offer public health programmes, providing broad-based training for young people hoping to become seasoned healthcare professionals. And CUHK is the first university in Hong Kong to offer an undergraduate public health programme.

Hong Kong people probably do not need much introduction to the consequences of mysterious diseases spiraling into public health crises. Very often, before scientists getting a good grasp of the culprit virus, the infection may have wreaked enough havoc to show how unprepared we are. To make sure people stay vigilant, we should spend more efforts in public health education.

The promotion of public health requires diverse skills and coordination, and therefore the curriculum of a public health programme usually encompasses a wide range of disciplines, including biostatistics, environmental health, social and behavioural science, health services, public health policy, management, finance, law, and engineering.

‘We offer learning opportunities to talents who aspire to be public health professionals, so that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to plan strategically for the proper management of health services, the control and prevention of infectious diseases, as well as to decide what policies are best to promote healthier lifestyles for future generations,’ Prof. Samuel Wong Yeung-shan, Director of the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, said.

Kelvin Ho, a recent graduate, is satisfied with the breadth and depth of the programme.

‘The comprehensiveness of this study offers me a full picture of the role of public health in society. Physiological factors aside, social, environmental, and political issues can lead to the emergence and diffusion of diseases. Public health professionals thus have to come up with creative strategies in tackling public health problems, formulating solutions, and evaluating efficacy of policies and measures,’ Kelvin said.

The formulation of public health policies could be a tedious, controversial and contentious process, sometimes calling for international collaboration. Kelvin was fortunate enough to be able to visit the United Nations headquarters in New York to cover the meetings attended by decision-makers and health professionals hailing from different countries.

‘I really enjoyed attending the meetings and writing up articles relating to international and healthcare issues. My training at CUHK helped me get the most out of my trip to the United Nations.’

The CUHK programme has a good combination of classroom learning and extra-curricular activities.

‘In addition to classroom learning, experiential learning and international exposure also constitute an important component of the programme. Through such experiences, students will have a more thorough and holistic understanding of public health,’ Professor Wong said.

For example, students can go on exchange in overseas universities for one semester. Summer study tours are also available.

On professional development, students are required to complete 100 hours of practicum and they are assigned mentors who advise them on career planning. The School also appoints year coordinators responsible for supporting students’ academic and personal development.

To Kelvin, public health studies has opened him to different fields of knowledge useful for both his professional and personal growth. He called on inquisitive, bright, young minds who aspire to pursue a healthcare career to join this programme.

Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2021