Symposium Introduction


Living and working in a poorly managed environment contribute substantially to the global burden of morbidity and mortality for both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Air pollution has long been considered relevant only in industrialised countries, but as many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are undergoing rapid industrialization and urbanization, they face even greater threat from deteriorating ambient air quality, as well as from the continuing exposure to household air pollution due to use of solid fuel in traditional cookstoves in many rural and urban communities. According to the recent estimates from Global Burden of Diseases report, air pollution, both ambient and household related, is recognized as the most important environmental risk factor, accounting for over 5 million annual deaths, mainly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).


Current estimates on the global burden of disease related to air pollution are largely extrapolated from studies in high income countries. Although air pollution-associated disease burden in China is expected to be high, there has been substantial recent improvement in the use of clean fuel for household cooking and heating over the last few decades. In contrast, the increase in exposure to ambient air pollution is so recent that the full impact on mortality and morbidity has yet to emerge. To date, no studies have been able to assess prospectively the short- and long-term health effects of individual exposure to household and ambient air pollution simultaneously, while taking into account of other lifestyle factors, especially tobacco smoking. Consequently, the estimated annual number of death attributed to ambient air pollution in China varied enormously, ranging from 0.3 and 1 million. To address this evidence gap, there is a need for properly-designed large prospective studies in China that can link individual exposure data with short- and long-term health outcomes.


This symposium provides a platform for epidemiologists and specialists in environmental health and also clinicians interested in environmental health from international communities, China, and Hong Kong to interact, communicate and discuss challenges and opportunities unique to the research into health and environment, particularly in relation to air pollution and climate change in China. Discussion priorities may include comparison between various health risk factors particularly related to exposures (e.g. air pollution, climate change and health, smoking, society exposome), technical challenges in measuring individual exposure, policy and clinical implications, as well as future directions in environmental health. It will also help to explore and establish new multi-disciplinary collaboration, taking advantages of large nationwide prospective cohort studies in China (e.g. China Kadoorie Biobank) and elsewhere. It is planned the symposium will take place bi-annually.


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All sessions will be conducted in English.