Intensified ageing in Hong Kong boosts demand for social welfare and healthcare talents
In face of the intensifying ageing problem in Hong Kong, the government has, in recent years, stepped up its resource input to cope with the social welfare and healthcare needs of the elderly. Resources aside, our society also needs to expand our talent pool, in which people equipped with professional knowledge and skills can understand and take care of the needs of our elderly. Such knowledge and skills might be an understanding of the causes of dementia, the skills to take care of dementia patients, the ability to effectively promote community healthcare and the use of the increasingly popular gerontechnology, etc. To meet the demand of our ageing society, Lingnan University has launched MSc in Health and Social Services Management so that talents are trained up in the social welfare and healthcare services sectors, etc., to help our ageing population ‘age in a healthy way’.
‘The ageing population of Hong Kong is projected to see a growth from 17% in 2016 to 31% in 2036,’ Professor Chan Chak-kwan Dickson, Director of the Asia Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies (APIAS) notes. ‘This brings to issues such as the need to take care of an increasing number of elderly people, the need to find a solution for the surging elderly healthcare expenses, a rising manpower need of talents on elderly care, and the real-life difficulties faced by the elderly when they take care of themselves. Our social welfare and healthcare services sectors need to invest in more resources and talents to relieve these problems.’ In the meantime, while the community healthcare sector has taken the initiative to strengthen its development and promotion of gerontechnology, the talent demand in the relevant fields further drives up. As Professor Chan explains, for the myriad of problems relating to our increasing ageing population, physical and mental rehabilitation services provided by social workers, nurses and healthcare personnel can help prevent illnesses of the elderly, reduce frequencies of their hospitalization and curb the drain on healthcare resources. As for the initiative of community healthcare, the application of advanced technology can help support the elderly in meeting their daily needs, improving their quality of life and resolving the difficulties they encounter in their daily lives, while it can also help ease the burden of their caretakers.
Devising key training elements
For the Master Programme in Health and Social Services Management, Professor Chan Chak-kwan Dickson, Chief-in-charge of the programme design, notes, ‘Our Programme is taught by an international faculty with sterling teaching experience. They would help bring students’ horizon to a higher, international level. They would provide students with knowledge of social welfare and healthcare services in different countries. Programme instructors possess excellent research experience, and have published numerous academic articles widely seen in prestigious journals in the relevant fields, such as “Journal of Social Policy”, “Social Service Review” and “British Journal of Social Work”, etc. They would deliver, through their professional experience, skills on mastering research work and writing reports to their students.’ The Programme invites frontline staff and serving management personnel in the healthcare services sectors to share their work experience, so that students can blend theories with practitioners’ experience, rendering a thorough and complete knowledge base. The Programme also offers an international exchange programme, in which students will conduct field studies of social services in different countries. Students will also attend a summer school in Oxford University, where they can get a chance to learn from professors of other tertiary institutions who share their views on the development of healthcare services and social welfare sectors.
The Programme has devised a number of key training elements, including elements of Chinese medicine, gerontechnology, management skills and academic report-writing. ‘Our elderly tend to resort to Chinese medical treatment. Courses on health and wellbeing through Chinese medicine are even available in some elderly care centres. With the ageing population, the demand for Chinese medical practitioners is ever growing. In view of this, we have specially developed a subject on “Chinese Medicine in Health and Social Services’, to be instructed by reputable professors on Chinese medicine. Students can then apply their Chinese medical knowledge to help elderly in illness prevention and in strengthening their body and health when students engage themselves in social services. “Modern Technology in Health and Social Services” is a subject that delivers knowledge on the development and application of gerontechnology. It is both practical and on-trend.’
The Programme puts emphasis on the training of students’ capabilities on team management. Students would benefit from their enhanced management skills while they work and when they advance further in their career paths as management personnel. Noting social services practitioners’ need to write reports in large quantities for funding applications for service development, the Programme also highlights training on writing reports and proposals and on research abilities, with a view to helping students display their full potential in their workplace.
Promising career prospects
The career opportunities of graduates of the Master Programme are even more endless, and the Programme would give professionals such as social workers and healthcare personnel an extra edge to aspire in their careers. ‘Graduates can work in social welfare, education institutions and healthcare services sectors as programme managers, training personnel and health promotion personnel. The career prospect is definitely promising,’ says Professor Chan.