For Immediate Release
December 13, 2021
TSX/NYSE/PSE: MFC SEHK: 945
Hong Kong – More than half of the main breadwinners in low-income households show at least one symptom of either hypertension, hyperglycemia or hypercholesterolemia (“the three hypers”), all of which can lead to major chronic disease and complications such as coronary heart disease and stroke, according to findings from the first phase of the Manulife Health Voucher Program (“the Program”) in Hong Kong.
Manulife, which is partnered by the Christian Family Service Centre (CFSC) for the market’s first business-sponsored health voucher charity program, targeted low-income beneficiaries in five districts to identify health issues and provide them with free healthcare services. The first phase started with Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing. Analysis of interim data, gathered from 399 beneficiaries in Kwun Tong, showed that 56% have symptoms of at least one of the three hypers, with 19% diagnosed with two types or more.
The findings show a low-income constituency under considerable health stress, where the main household money-earner is vulnerable to chronic disease, in turn putting financial pressures on other family members, thereby increasing the risk of perpetuating the cycle of poverty. The alarming trend points to continued pressure on public health services.
“Chronic disease resulting in lengthy and often expensive treatment can cause loss of income, drain household resources and create a heavy financial burden for the vulnerable low-income families, so early detection, screening and prevention are vital,” said Isabella Lau, Chief Customer Officer of Manulife Hong Kong. “This is where our Health Voucher Program helps. Manulife is committed to advancing a healthier and more resilient community. We are glad to see the great turnout for the first phase of the Health Voucher Program, and are truly grateful to be able to contribute to the health and wellbeing of the community.”
The Program findings show that, significantly, it’s not just the elderly who are affected. The young and middle-aged groups are also at high risk, with 40% of those beneficiaries between 18 and 39 diagnosed with at least one symptom of the “three-hypers”, compared to 61% of those between 40 to 59 years old. In terms of gender, 72% of men and 52% of women have at least one symptom.
It is worth noting the tests also show that over half (57%) of the beneficiaries were overweight or obese, above the Hong Kong average of 50%1. Again, men (71%) fared worse than women (54%). Unhealthy lifestyles are prevalent among those diagnosed with three-hypers, with widespread drinking (77%) and smoking (66%), combined with a lack of exercise (57%) and inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables (58%).
In Hong Kong, poor and socially disadvantaged people are more commonly affected by noncommunicable disease (NCD) risk factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking and drinking.2 Against this backdrop, the pandemic has substantially added to the physical and mental health challenges they face. Yet, the Program has shown that many lack an understanding of the importance of preventive healthcare. Indeed, until they joined the Program, most participants had never previously undergone any kind of medical screening.
Besides the diseases being diagnosed, the health screenings and medical consultations also show that many of the participants appear to suffer from conditions commonly caused by mental wellness issues, including lack of energy (66%) and sleeping disorders (59%), with a smaller but still significant percentage (12%) admitting to having self-harming or suicidal thoughts.
“We see the Health Voucher Program as an important step on the journey to better health and wellbeing. We will continue to work with Manulife to support those in need and build a healthier community for everyone. We’re hopeful the benefits of the program will show through again when it’s rolled out in other districts including Eastern District, Sham Shui Po and Tin Shui Wai,” said Angel Chan, Assistant Chief Executive of CFSC.
The Program will continue to roll out to Island East District, Sham Shui Po and Tin Shui Wai to help the vulnerable community, with the expected program completion by April 2022.
Apart from the health screening and consultation services, the Program also provides the beneficiaries with seven separate options tailored to suit their particular healthcare needs, including GP consultation, physiotherapy, body checks, nutrition consultation, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and dental care. Of these options, traditional Chinese medicine (41%) and dental care (20%) were in most demand during the first phase.
About Manulife Health Voucher Program
The Program was launched in March 2021 by Manulife Hong Kong, in partnership with the Christian Family Service Centre, and is the city’s first business-sponsored health voucher charity program. The Program is designed to support up to 2,000 beneficiaries from underprivileged families with free healthcare services. The beneficiaries are the money-earners, or breadwinners, from households in five disadvantaged districts – Kwun Tong, Eastern District, Sham Shui Po, Tin Shui Wai, Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing – who receive free health screening and consultation services, as well as seven tailored healthcare service options to choose from as a follow-up to the screening. The options include GP consultation, physiotherapy, body checks, nutrition consultation, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and dental care.
About Manulife Hong Kong
Manulife Hong Kong, through Manulife International Holdings Limited, owns Manulife (International) Limited, Manulife Investment Management (Hong Kong) Limited and Manulife Provident Funds Trust Company Limited. As a member of the Manulife group of companies, Manulife Hong Kong offers a diverse range of protection and wealth products and services to individual and corporate customers in Hong Kong and Macau.
Manulife Financial Corporation is a leading international financial services provider that helps people make their decisions easier and lives better. With our global headquarters in Toronto, Canada, we provide financial advice and insurance, operating as Manulife across Canada, Asia, and Europe, and primarily as John Hancock in the United States. Through Manulife Investment Management, the global brand for our global wealth and asset management segment, we serve individuals, institutions and retirement plan members worldwide. At the end of 2020, we had more than 37,000 employees, over 118,000 agents, and thousands of distribution partners, serving over 30 million customers. As of September 30, 2021, we had CAD$1.4 trillion (HK$8.6 trillion) in assets under management and administration, and in the previous 12 months we made CAD$31.6 billion in payments to our customers.
Our principal operations are in Asia and Canada, and the United States, where we have served customers for more than 155 years. We trade as 'MFC' on the Toronto, New York, and the Philippine stock exchanges and under '945' in Hong Kong. Not all offerings are available in all jurisdictions. For additional information, please visit manulife.com.
About Christian Family Service Centre
Christian Family Service Centre (CFSC) was established in 1954. Over the years, the Agency’s work gradually extended and it has now developed into a multi-service agency, providing services throughout the territory. CFSC has 10 core services with 2 categories, (i) “People-centred Service” includes Children and Family Services, Youth and Education Services, Elderly Care Services, Services for People with Disabilities, Mental Health Services; (ii) “Community-oriented Service” includes Active Aging Services, Opportunities and Inclusion for People with Disabilities, Medical and Health Services, Community Development Services, Environmental Protection and Green Living. For more information about CFSC, please visit www.cfsc.org.hk.
1 Population Health Survey 2017, the Department of Health
2 Promoting Health in Hong Kong, A Strategic Framework for Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, Department of Health (P.10)