Public Policy Research - Layman summaries of projects funded in 1st Round

CityU 1001-PPR20051
Assessment of Suitability of Existing Air Quality Objectives (AQO) and Air Pollution Index (API) used in Hong Kong
PI: Dr LU, Jane Weizhen

Urban air quality has significant impact on residents and city image, especially to metropolitan city like Hong Kong, which is characterized of the highest population density and shortage of land resource. The appropriate air pollution indexes (APIs) and air quality objective (AQOs) guideline can provide useful information for various parties for further prevention and action. The study on the rationale of existing APIs and AQOs can establish solid base and provide reliable suggestions to the operation and control of these criterions. The study can also help policy maker to justify and revise relevant regulations in due.

CUHK 4004-PPR20051
Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of an Acute Pain Service
PI: Prof Anna Lee

Acute pain after surgery is common and unpleasant despite improvements in the treatment of postoperative pain. Pain after surgery can impede recovery and interfere with the patient's quality of life, leading to loss productivity and income. Acute Pain Services have received widespread acceptance and formal support from health professionals because it provides specialized and effective pain management techniques. However, little is known about the economic and clinical benefits associated with Acute Pain Service. We conducted a randomized controlled trial of 422 patients to compare the costs and effects of Acute Pain Service versus the conventional pain management on the ward. Despite lower pain scores at rest, less interference with daily activities due to pain and better effective pain treatment in the Acute Pain Service group, the quality of recovery was similar between the two groups. The Acute Pain Service was more expensive (HK$354 per patient) than the usual treatment on the ward; this was mainly due to staff costs. Of the 60% of patients who were willing to pay for Acute Pain Service care, the average amount was HK$100. We conclude that the Acute Pain Service was marginally cost-effective.

CUHK 4008-PPR20051
Siting Locally Unwanted Land Uses: In your Backyard or in mine?
PI: Prof. Lam, Kin Che

This is the first systematic attempt to understand why LULU conflicts arise in Hong Kong and how they can possibly be managed. Our four social surveys and several focus group discussions have shown that there is considerable frustration among those who plan/site LULU facilities and a lot of resentment in host communities. The current rational and scientific approach to search for "optimal" sites does not address the concern of the local people who view LULUs as social and equity issues. The public have very low level of trust towards the government, the legislature and local council who either make decisions or who are consulted on the matter. Yet the government has relied heavily on planning/environmental consultants to make recommendations and one the planning and EIA processes to legitimize their decisions. To minimize conflicts, it is imperative to shift from the technocratic emphasis to one which is people-centered, participatory and benefit-sharing oriented. The survey findings do not indicate compensation as a preferred option and we have outlined a number of recommendations including incorporation of a "strategic" dimension in LULU planning, adoption of an integrative package in promoting LULU projects, the re-building of trust, and the offer of incentives or community betterment as the last resort.

CUHK 4014-PPR20051
Impacts of the Community Work Experience and Training Programme on Welfare Recipients
PI: Prof. Tang, Kwong-leung

The research project addresses uncertainty about the relative effectiveness of the Enhanced Community Work Program (ECW), conventional Community Work Program (CW), and Intensive Employment Assistance Project (IEAP) for facilitating welfare recipients' transition from welfare to work. Such effectiveness concerns the contributions of participation in the program on work commitment, economic self-reliance, desire to leave welfare, job seeking, getting a job, earning and saving money form the jobs, and desire to stay in employment. The project thereby collected 1,827 cases from a pair of baseline and one-year follow-up surveys involving participants in the programs. Results show that participation in the ECW generated an advantage in the increase in work commitment over participation in the CW. However, the ECW manifested disadvantages in facilitating employment and its benefits, compared with the IEAP. These advantage and disadvantages did not appear to be attributable to training and job attachment arranged by the program, as training and job attachment did not contribute to transition form welfare to work. Besides, the ECW was more effective for welfare recipients who had had shorter duration in welfare reception and employment and longer duration in unemployment. Nevertheless, training and job attachment in the ECW were less effective than those in the IEAP.

CUHK 4016-PPR20051
Who gets Ahead (or Stays Behind): Life Chances and Social Mobility in Hong Kong
PI: Prof Tai-lok Lui

Contrary to the popular depiction of the arrival of a 'downwardly mobile society' or an 'M-form society', the findings of this research suggest that Hong Kong is still a rather open society with plenty of opportunities for those coming from humble origins to climb up the social ladder. The suggestions of a significant reduction in mobility opportunity and the disappearance of the middle class are not supported by the findings of this research. Equally important is that education continues to play a critical role in determining one's success in social mobility. In this regard, Hong Kong is still a meritocratic society, allowing talents of different family backgrounds to attain their personal success by achievement in the education system. However, that said, it is observed that recent changes in Hong Kong's economy, particularly its integration with Mainland China, have created divisions within the social structure. Survey findings suggest that those who work in the public or non-profit sector do not believe economic integration will offer them significant benefits. Hong Kong people's subjective perceptions of social, economic and political changes since 1997 are shaped by their positions in the social structure.

HKUST 6003-PPR20051
Social Inequality and Mobility in Hong Kong, A Benchmark Study
PI: Associate Prof. Wu, Xiaogang

The project has collected large-scale, citywide representative probability survey data to study social stratification and mobility in Hong Kong (N=4013). Questions are grouped into five modules: a) personal information; b) job and career; c) family and life condition; d) socioeconomic status and perception; e) social identity and political participation. The PI and his team member have used the data to empirically and analyze the social process on how inequalities are generated and maintained across generations, focusing on the roles of family background and education. Several papers have been accepted for publication and a few others are ongoing. The data are to available for use by other scholars and policy researchers and more questions can be addressed with the rich information in the data set.

HKUST 6004-PPR20051
Hybrid vehicles and hydrogen economy as the interim and long-term solutions to Hong Kong's energy usage
PI: Prof Ming Fang

The PI departed the University and Hong Kong in July 2006 and the project was terminated.

HKU 7004-PPR20051
Integration of new immigrants in Hong Kong: a longitudinal investigation
PI: Dr Kee Lee Chou

As a result of the low fertility rate, new immigrants, especially those coming from the Mainland, will continue to be the single most important source for population growth in Hong Kong. However, there is considerable doubt about how these new immigrants are integrated into the Hong Kong's society as the latter is turning into a knowledge-based economy, with an employment structure emphasizing education and skills. Our findings indicate that education and working experiences strongly affect how new arrivals integrated the job market in Hong Kong and the Government must provide employment-related supportive services to them so that they could economically integrate in a faster pace. Our results also show that the first six months in Hong Kong, it is the mist difficult period for psychological well-being of new arrivals and one quarter of them are clinically depressed. However, we have found that better preparation for immigration and social support they received in Hong Kong could help them overcome this difficult period of time. Therefore, we urge the Government to provide formal services to the new arrivals during their visits in Hong Kong before they officially migrate to Hong Kong so that they could have a better preparation for their immigration.

HKU 7006-PPR20051
Cost and clinical effectiveness of the Hong Kong scoliosis screening programme
PI: Dr Fong, DYT

For the first time, this research project assessed the cost and clinical effectiveness of the Hong Kong scoliosis screening programme since its establishment in 1995. Moreover, the epidemiology of patients suffering from idiopathic scoliosis was also examined.

Based on a group of students, the largest worldwide, who participated in the Hong Kong scoliosis screening programme, we concluded the programme is cost and clinically effective, Specifically, it outperforms protocols established in other countries and identified at least 80% of patients who required clinical follow-up or treatment. Indeed, this is currently the first study that supports school scoliosis screening with good evidence. Moreover, the screening protocol in Hong Kong may become a model for other countries, especially for the Chinese population. Besides, how the progression of patients suffering from adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is associated with age, gender, and growth rate were examined. These findings add important information to the literature, international organizations with special interest in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, and health authorities.

This project has also successfully built up a multi-disciplinary team, including orthopaedists, policy makers and statisticians, for future research in this field. A feasibility study for an innovative research project on bracing for patients with spinal deformity has been granted.

HKU 7011-PPR20051
Horizontal equity in health care utilization in Hong Kong
PI: Prof. Gabriel M. Leung

We also examined the distributional characteristics of Hong Kong's mixed public-private health system to identify the net redistribution achieved through public spending on health care, compared the income-related inequality and inequity of public and private care, and measured horizontal inequity in health care delivery overall. Payments for public care are highly concentrated on the better-off while benefits are pro-poor. As a consequence, public health care effects significant net redistribution from the rich to the poor. Public care is skewed towards the poor in part because of allocation according to need but also because the rich opt out of the public sector and consume most of the private care. Overall, there is horizontal inequity favouring the rich in general outpatient care and (very marginally) inpatient care. Pro-rich bias in the distribution of private care outweighs the pro-poor bias of public care. A lesser role for private finance may improve horizontal equity of utilization but would also reduce the degree of net redistribution through the public sector.

HKU 7012-PPR20051
Innovative planning tools for urban renewal in Hong Kong
PI: Associate Prof. Li Ling Hin

In this Public Policy Research project, we set out to examine two new concepts (at least in the context of Hong Kong) of urban land redevelopment. Transfer of Development Rights initiated from America with an objective of conserving farming while demands for development are directed to designated locations. The mechanism has over the years been developed into conservation of historic buildings as well as in the urban cities. The concept is not completely new in Hong Kong but implementation requires a new management model of bureaucratic structure which we have outlined above. In Hong Kong, we expect the model to be more useful in the conversation of historic buildings, which is now a popular trend in urban politics, than in directing development.

On the other hand, Land Readjustment is not a new concept as partnership is always an objective in out urban renewal strategy. However, partnership in the whole redevelopment process brings out new thoughts that may sound appealing to local residents who can expect to share the overall result of urban renewal at a cost of temporary rehousing. To the developer, the benefits come from minimal site assembly problem while delivering their corporate responsibility to the society. It seems to be a win-win solution to most of our urban renewal problems.

Nevertheless, we need to emphasize here that the two alternatives provide positive outputs only when certain conditions are met. These two concepts are never meant to be antidote for ALL urban land use problems we all face. Implementation of these models needs substantial government effort in educating the public and to a certain extent making political compromises. We see potential benefits to a certain extent making political compromises. We see potential benefits to the society as a whole in seriously considering incorporating these models into out land use systems in Hong Kong and if realized, these new concepts may act as catalysts to further refine and revolutionise our current land use mechanism

HKU 7023-PPR20051
Forfeiture of crime tainted property in Hong Kong
PI: Associate Prof. Simon NM Young

Corruption, fraud and other profit-motivated crimes remain a problem in Hong Kong. The policy of pursuing the profits of crime can be highly effective in deterring and disrupting criminal enterprises. The Hong Kong government can and should do much more to prevent criminal property (i.e. property obtained by crime or used to commit crimes) from being used to commit further crimes. Hong Kong has fallen below international standards in this policy area. The laws for confiscating criminal property that were enacted in 1989 and 1994 are complex, riddled with anomalies, and have inherent limitations that prevent law enforcement from fulfilling the aim of total confiscation.

Both legal and institutional reforms are needed. The existing laws should be unified to remove anomalies, fill gaps and strengthen measures. A system of non-conviction based civil forfeiture should be introduced as a parallel measure. Cooperation arrangements with our neighbours within China should be formalized. There needs to be a special fund made up of confiscated assets. Better training and more resources for enforcement are essential. More co-ordination between agencies including the establishment of a specialized asset recovery unit is an international best practice that should be adopted in Hong Kong.