PolyU: PolyU strengthens community COVID-19 prevention and rehabilitation with Health and Medical Research Fund studies

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) received HK$55.9 million in funding from the government’s Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) for new studies that aim to better prepare Hong Kong for the recovery stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The multi-disciplinary studies range from exploring a new holistic approach in preventing infection and enhancing recovery, to developing more effective strategies in strengthening community-level protection against the coronavirus, especially for vulnerable groups. The studies will engage and collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders in the community.

The new studies follow the previous round of HMRF backed COVID-19 research conducted by PolyU, several of which have yielded impactful outputs that have contributed to better informed public health measures and responses, while other ongoing studies are making good progress.

Professor Wing-tak WONG, Deputy President and Provost of PolyU, said the dedication of PolyU’s researchers has led to substantial research output on COVID-19, particularly in areas like rapid diagnostics, transmission tracing, and outbreak trend forecasting. The University is grateful to the Food and Health Bureau for supporting and approving PolyU’s research efforts.

“We are also honoured to be invited by the Bureau again this year to submit COVID-19 research proposals. This gives PolyU the opportunity to leverage our multi-disciplinary research strength, especially in the areas of social sciences, health, and nursing, to support the government’s anti-pandemic efforts,” Professor Wong said.

Among the findings of the previous round of HMRF financed studies conducted by PolyU, Professor Elsie YAN Chau-wai, Associate Head of Department of Applied Social Sciences, examined public compliance with disease prevention measures to control COVID-19 using a two-wave 6-month longitudinal study. The study shed light on the reception of vaccines among different population segments and the findings were published in the internationally renowned journal Vaccines.

In addition, the rapid whole-genome sequencing technique developed by Dr Gilman SIU Kit-hang, Associate Professor of Department of Health Technology and Informatics, has played an important role in identifying and stopping transmission chains in Hong Kong, including those of variant strains.

Professor David SHUM, Dean of Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, said these HMRF backed studies demonstrate PolyU’s strength in producing research that addresses societal challenges and creates a positive impact, particularly with respect to anti-pandemic efforts in the community.

“The new studies supported by HMRF in its latest round of funding underscore the Fund’s approval of PolyU’s research capability,” Professor Shum said. “The novel coronavirus pandemic might have stabilized, but it is far from finished. There are new variants that continue to pose new threats, prevention is still a priority area that we need to work on; while the growing number of COVID-19 survivors also calls for better understanding of and strategies for their long-term rehabilitation needs.”

In the third and latest round of HMRF COVID-19 studies announced this month by the government’s Food and Health Bureau and the Research Council, PolyU’s large multi-disciplinary research studies led by Professor Alex MOLASIOTIS, Chair Professor of Nursing and Head of School of Nursing, were granted HK$27.6 million. The studies will explore “a community-based participatory research approach to reduce the COVID-19 risk in Hong Kong: developing and testing social and behavioural interventions”.

Another set of large multi-disciplinary research studies led by Professor David MAN, Associate Head of Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, were awarded HK$28.3 million. The studies will explore “the Prevention-Protection-Promotion approach as a novel and effective strategy to prevent infection and enhance recovery in individuals with COVID-19”.

These research studies will address comprehensive follow-up of novel coronavirus survivors and their caregivers’ physical and mental wellness and long-term health issues; social and behavioural interventions to reduce the spread of infection; and the development of novel and effective strategies to enhance recovery and implementation models to prevent such infection.

PolyU welcomes public participation in the two new studies and interested community members and groups can contact the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences on telephone numbers 3400 3184 or 3400 3973, or by sending an email to fhss.community@polyu.edu.hk.

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