Dietetics and Nutrition in Hong Kong and the United States – A Cultural Perspective

To make the point that Hong Kong is a modern city — with skyscrapers, a vibrant commercial environment, and a growing cultural community — is to state the fairly obvious.  Indeed, when it comes to healthcare, Hong Kong likewise has a relatively good system, although like all others there is room for potential improvement. So why does it appear that in the area of diet and nutrition, and the community’s interest in and knowledge of the subject, Hong Kong may be lagging behind certain Western countries such as the U.S.?

The answers to the question above are not necessarily simple, and it is not to say that many in Hong Kong do not have an interest in their diet and caring for their health.  But the U.S., as a market, has demonstrated a keen interest in the role of diet for a number of decades at this point.  Walk by any newsstand in any city or sizeable town in the U.S. and one is bound to see a number of nutrition and other health-oriented magazines on the shelf.  On the more serious side, significant resources have also been allocated at the government and university levels to study the role of diet on people’s health. 

It has been this growing cultural recognition surrounding the importance of diet in the U.S. that has led to enactment of Federal, State and local laws and regulations governing the medical aspects of diet.  For example, in the U.S. the diet of nursing home residents is subject to regular inspection by local authorities, and physicians routinely call in licensed dietitians to help treat patients with a range of health problems extending beyond obesity.  Dietetics, in short, is treated as a proper medical profession.

In Hong Kong, diet and nutrition is too often associated solely with weight control (typically as part of a slimming plan), which of course can be important.  But dietetics as a profession does not have the stature as is does in the U.S., despite the fact that accredited dietitians typically have a bachelor’s degree and have passed a professional licensing exam. A gap clearly remains in the credibility given to the profession and practice of dietetics relative to Western countries.

We believe this gap is likely to close over time given several evolving trends one can see in Hong Kong’s society.  A decade ago there were few health and exercise clubs, while today they are manifold.  As Hong Kong’s younger generation ages and gains in purchasing power, and as the knowledge from Western cultures concerning the impact of diet on one’s health spreads, there will be a greater demand for diet and nutrition counseling, and hopefully the dietetics profession will be taken more seriously.

May 31, 2013

For more information, please contact Life Extension’s Head of Dietetics and Nutrition at +852 2790 7290.  Please also feel free to e-mail us at info@life-extension.com.hk or by instant message on our website (www.life-extension.com.hk).