In addition to partnering and collaborating on infrastructure projects, such as building ports, roads and bridges, countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative have also agreed to synergise medical research and epidemic prevention efforts, which fit with the Belt and Road objectives of promoting cooperation, mutual learning and mutual benefits.
A good example of Belt and Road cooperation involving Hong Kong is the comprehensive Asia Pacific Viral Hepatitis Policy Survey, which published its findings earlier in 2017. The extensive survey, the first to be conducted since 2012, was carried out by the Centre for Global Health under the School of Public Health and Primary Care, Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK CGH), with the support of the Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP), an independent, multidisciplinary non-profit organisation dedicated to hepatitis policy advocacy.
A key aim of the survey was to evaluate the systems and preparedness of Asian governments in the goal to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. China’s President Xi Jinping and former World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan agreed to bring a global health focus to economic development, starting with Belt and Road countries. The countries and territories surveyed included Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. While globally millions of people have infected with viral hepatitis, the Asia Pacific region is home to the highest percentage of people whose lives are impacted by the virus. Termed by some as the "silent epidemic", estimates suggest that globally, viral hepatitis is responsible for more than a million deaths.
Having worked on hepatitis policy advocacy for a number of years, Elizabeth Fung, Senior Account Manager of FleishmanHillard (Hong Kong) said the international communications firm was ready to provide assistance again. Previously FleishmanHillard worked with various public sector organisations including the provision of communications support to CEVHAP. FleishmanHillard worked closely with CUHK CGH and CEVHAP to provide corporate communication services and helped to compile the final survey report.
"Hong Kong is a key member of the wider Asia Pacific community, and as an agency based in Hong Kong, we want to contribute to the creation of a hepatitis-free future in Asia Pacific," Fung said. Hong Kong has a number of well-known health related research institutions. Hong Kong is also a globally recognised knowledge hub for public health and hepatology (the branch of medicine that incorporates the study of liver, gallbladder and pancreas). "This means we have access to a research team more than capable of meeting international standards," said Fung who also points out that Hong Kong is a regional media hub, with over 50 international media with sizeable operations which contribute to international news coverage. "The presence of quality research partners and access to the media makes Hong Kong an attractive option for coordinating a regional survey," noted Fung.