HKU School of Public Health hosts the Fifth Hong Kong Public Health Forum on “Extracting Meaning from Data: Cohorts and Deep Analytics” and pays tribute to Professor TH Lam

The School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong (HKU) hosts the fifth Hong Kong Public Health Forum today. The theme of the Forum is on "Extracting Meaning from Data: Cohorts and Deep Analytics". The programme comprised two plenary sessions, viz, "History of Southern Chinese Cohorts" and "Deep Analytics" in which 16 international and local scholars who are at the forefront of research in cohort studies and deep analytics shared their insights and experience on this important topic in academic public health. More than 250 colleagues and students including Professor Sophia Chan, Under Secretary for Food and Health, public health practitioners, policymakers and healthcare leaders had attended the Forum, which was a full house event.

Professor Malik Peiris, Tam Wah-Ching Professor in Medical Science, Chair Professor of Virology and Director of School of Public Health, gave the opening address. "Big data and deep analytics used together provide huge opportunities when applied to cohort studies and biobanking within the context of public health", said Professor Peiris. He hoped that the Forum will help provide a platform to examine how we can meaningfully exploit big data with a view to transcending boundaries in clinical research and public health medicine. Professor Peiris also gave a special tribute to Professor TH Lam, Chair Professor of Community Medicine and Sir Robert Kotewall Professor in Public Health, for his significant contributions to developing, resurrecting, maintaining and overseeing major cohort studies of the School as featured at the Forum. "As a tireless advocate for bringing public health into the community, Professor TH Lam has placed our School firmly on the world map of epidemiological research on non-communicable diseases (NCD), especially in tobacco control. On the occasion of this year's public health forum, we salute him for his sustained and exceptional contributions to promoting the art and science of public health practice and community medicine," remarked Professor Peiris.

The opening keynote was given by Professor Mika Ala-Korpela, Professor of Computational Medicine at the Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu and at the School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol. Professor Mika Ala-Korpela spoke on the role of omics profiling in epidemiology, public health and future medicine. Professor Ala-Korpela remarked that "large-scale omics profiling will transform our understanding of diseases and thereby also impact risk assessment, public health and clinical practices". He also highlighted the increasingly important role that omics profiling plays to help inform improvements in the prevention of NCD. Subsequent to Professor Ala-Korpela's keynote address, Professor TH Lam and Dr Mary Schooling, Associate Professor and Cluster Leader of Non-communicable Diseases in Global Health of HKU School of Public Health, gave a presentation on respectively the challenges and successes of creating cohorts and on how we can make more of the data we have. Their presentation were followed by vignettes from eleven speakers of the School.

Professor Zhengming Chen, Professor of Epidemiology and Director of China Programmes, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, gave the closing keynote. In his speech on Big data for population health and biomedical research: China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB), Professor Chen used the CKB as an exemplar to illustrate the unexplained heterogeneity of disease rates within China and between China and elsewhere. Professor Chen explained that the information generated from large prospective biobank studies will improve our understanding of disease aetiology and usher in the development of personalised medicine, benefiting populations worldwide.

The highlight of the Forum was the closing remarks on The Way Forward  from Professor Gabriel M Leung, Chair Professor of Public Health Medicine and Dean of Medicine of HKU. Professor Leung said, "While big data is great, it is often misunderstood as the be all and end all." Using its various long-running cohort studies in Hong Kong and Southern China, Professor Leung affirmed that HKU School of Public Health and its two invited keynote speakers have elucidated how we can go beyond big data to deep analytics to make more of the data we have and to help formulate specific disease prevention and control strategies. Professor Leung also believed that our collective efforts will help generate new insights into the causes of diseases and in identifying new targets of intervention to improve population health.


About the School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, HKU

The School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, HKU has a long and distinguished history in public health education and high impact research. With world leading research in infectious diseases as well as on non-communicable diseases of both local and global importance, the School has made significant contributions through its research and advocacy to improve the health of populations and individuals, both locally and globally. The School is a leading research and teaching hub in public health on influenza and other emerging viruses, control of infectious and non-communicable diseases, tobacco control, air pollution, psycho-oncology, behavioral sciences, life-course epidemiology, and health economics, health services planning and management. This work has informed international (e.g. the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), national and local public health policies.


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