One Size Does Not Fit All

A Chinese University of Hong Kong study, led by former Hong Kong health Minister, Professor Yeoh Eng-Kiong, calls for different approaches to different groups to improve the health of ethnic minority groups, and the poor.

The study found higher levels of obesity and related health problems among Hong Kong’s South Asian community and is calling for targeted, culturally sensitive action to help them.

It noted that much of the health information and advice put out by the government, the media and the medical sector catered to most of the population, not the sub groups within whose needs and responses to initiatives and messaging can be different.

The issue was not only the language used, but also the cultural sensitivity of the messages according to Professor Yeoh Eng-Kiong, director of the university’s Centre for Health Systems and Policy Research. He said ethnic minority group members had different food and lifestyle preferences, and efforts to encourage them to make the healthiest choices had to take that into account.

For example, it would be pointless to advise people to eat a healthier type of rice when they ate some other staple food, he said.

“You ask me to eat rice three times a day, and multigrain rice, when I don’t eat rice,” he argued. “Obviously I’m just disengaged. I don’t even bother to look at it anymore.”

The study covered 790 adult Pakistanis, Nepalis and Indians, who were interviewed over a year from June 2022, and found that more than three in four were obese, with a body mass index of 25 or higher.

Advocacy Action – Is your health policy messaging targeted, to take account of cultural differences? Are representatives of minority or disadvantaged groups involved in health policy proposals, and or communications?