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The 3rd International E-Symposium on Communication in Health Care

"Advancing Frontiers of Health Communication Research, Education and Practice during the Pandemic"

Session 1: From Effective Healthcare Communication to Improve Healthcare Outcomes

for Vulnerable Populations during COVID-19


Talk 1: Mental health in the workplace: COVID-19 and vulnerable groups

Zoë Fortune, Olga Zayts-Spence & Vincent Wai Sum Tse 

This talk presents the quantitative findings from a wider project investigating the impact of Covid-19 on selected groups, and their identified coping mechanisms.


Using results from a survey of over 900 employees, the presentation will focus specifically on the current status of mental health and the impact of Covid-19 for employees in the professional services industry. It will then examine characteristics and behaviours of vulnerable groups including women. Implications for provision of support will be discussed.


The team includes Dr Olga Zayts-Spence and Mr Vincent Tse. We would also like to thank Oliver Wyman management consultancy, and acknowledge Keiann Yeung and Hilleke van Osch from CMHA HK for their work and support in the project.

Speaker's bio:

Dr. Zoë Fortune is the founding CEO of the City Mental Health Alliance in Hong Kong. Established in 2017, the CMHA HK works with large corporations to raise awareness on mental health and create mentally healthy workplaces. Zoë is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong, and an instructor in Mental Health First Aid in Hong Kong.

Talk 2: The resilience of social service providers and families of children with autism or development delays during the COVID-19 pandemic

Paul Wong

Background: Hong Kong is one of the earliest cities to have hampered by the COVID-19. When preventive public health measures are enforced, specific groups, who have already been facing inequality before the outbreak, are likely to become more overlooked and vulnerable.


Aim: This community case study aims to describe the additional needs of families of children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental issues, as well as unexpected difficulties and challenges social service professionals encountered when delivering service and their solutions toward these challenges.


Methods: A focus group with 10 professionals providing the Caregiver Skills Training Program was conducted.


Results: Poor families of vulnerable children were found to be challenged, more than average, in finding daily necessities during the initial stage of the outbreak. Most vulnerable children displayed additional problematic behaviors and emotional problems during the quarantine. The social service professionals addressed the family needs by providing tangible resources and offering online training, workshops, and programs to meet their needs. Several important lessons were learned. First, technology know-how on conducting online training, workshop, and program could be a challenge to some social service professionals and the parents. Second, the professionals reported that they made huge efforts to produce guidelines in protecting services users' privacy, to equip themselves with necessary skills in executing privacy-protection measures, and to keep exploring for safer alternatives. Third, providing tele-services in online mode represented a different interaction pattern between social service professionals and service users, especially in the recruitment processes and group dynamics.


Conclusion: In comparison with other cities, Hong Kong has responded to the COVID-19 efficiently and effectively based on the citizen's strict adherence to behavioral advice and the innovative altruistic efforts from the multi-sectors in the community.

Speaker's Bio:

Dr. Paul Wong is a clinical psychologist and an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong. He has been involving in suicide prevention research and mental health promotion and practice since 2003. His recent research projects include youth social withdrawal behavior, using animals as part of educational and psychological interventions, youth positive development of local and non-Chinese young people, and family care giving for people with psychological issues.

Talk 3: The pervasive relevance of COVID-19 in paediatric palliative care appointments during the pandemic

Katie Ekberg, Lara Weinglass, Stuart Ekberg, Susan Danby, and Anthony Herbert

The importance of caring for children with complex and serious conditions means that paediatric palliative care must continue during pandemics. It is unknown, however, how communication within consultations might change during pandemics. This study video-recorded real-world instances of communication in paediatric palliative care appointments prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic to understand how clinicians and families talked about the pandemic. Data was analysed using Conversation Analysis. Analysis revealed a pervasive relevance of both serious and non-serious talk about COVID-19 within the consultations recorded during the pandemic. Topics typical of a standard consultation often led to discussion of the pandemic, including medical, psychosocial, and lifestyle discussions. Clinicians should maintain an awareness of the potential pervasiveness of COVID-19 talk within consultations to enable them to flexibly address family needs and concerns about pandemic-related matters that may impact health and wellbeing.

Speaker's Bio:

Dr. Katie Ekberg is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education at Queensland University of Technology. Her research interests involve conversation analysis of real-life, video-recorded communication in healthcare settings, patient- and family-centred care, and health behaviour change.

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