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Hong Kong Reflections. Health, Illness and Disability in Hong Kong Children. By David P Davies. (Pp 210; HK$250 paperback.) The Chinese University Press, 1995. ISBN 962-201-660-X.
Professor Davies was appointed to the Foundation Chair of Paediatrics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong between 1981–9. Not only was he involved in setting up the Department of Paediatrics in the newly founded medical school, his research and astute clinical observations during this period undoubtedly marked an important milestone in the development of paediatric services in Hong Kong. This book is largely a comparison of disease patterns, clinical practices, customs, lifestyles, and social attitudes between the Chinese in Hong Kong and white people in the West.
The book is divided into three main sections, and each chapter is based on articles published locally. The first section relates mainly to his clinical research interests in childhood growth and nutrition, contrasting the differences and similarities between Chinese children and their white counterparts. The second section focuses on his interests in paediatric medical education, where he discusses the current paediatric curriculum at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the way medical students should be taught, and the future format of assessment and examination. The last section describes his clinical observations and impressions on the variations of paediatric diseases in Hong Kong and Britain.
This book is of particular interest to me as a Hong Kong born Chinese neonatologist who was trained in Britain, and worked there for almost 20 years before returning in 1993 because of my father’s illness. After my return, I have been intrigued by marked, and at times unexpected, differences in neonatal disease patterns. Professor Davies’ book provides much insight into this aspect. His observation that Hong Kong’s extremely low sudden infant death rate might be related to certain cultural and social factors, has undoubtedly been an important catalyst in identifying the crucial link of sleep position in this condition. None the less, a number of his comments are derived from his personal experience and anecdotal observations, and it is clear that these issues will require further research and critical appraisal. During the past decade, globalisation has resulted in significant movement of people from one region to another, and many young Chinese families have emigrated to Europe, Australia, and North America. There is, thus, an increasing need for clinicians in Western countries to be aware of the ‘Chinese disease pattern’.
The book is very easy to read. I would warmly recommend it to all paediatric and child health professionals who have an interest in cross cultural disease patterns and medical education. Trainee paediatricians contemplating a sabbatical experience in the Far East would also find the book to be of value.
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