Knowledge Exchange

Our Faculty members are actively engaging in a number of projects which have an impact on the community. We have had some projects being supported by the HKU Knowledge Exchange (KE) Fund over the years. We are keen to share our knowledge and skills with the community via different kind of activities such as working with schools to enrich students’ learning experience, transferring knowledge and skills to help rebuild disaster-stricken areas in the region, provide services serving Government and Professional Committees, etc. We see community engagement as a two-way process of exchange through which the societal impact of our research will be enhanced.

A) Knowledge Exchange (KE) Projects/Activities

Project Coordinator: Dr. Shirley X. LI
Project year: 2018/19
Project website:

Insomnia is a common public health problem, affecting 10-30% of the general population. It is a distressing complaint associated with an array of detrimental health-related outcomes, such as excessive daytime fatigue, impaired daytime functioning, increased risk for mental disorders and poor physical health. In particular, insomnia has been found to frequently co-occur with a wide range of mental health problems, especially anxiety and depressive disorders. Longitudinal studies suggested that insomnia symptoms, once developed, might persist over time, if left untreated (persistence rate up to 40%). Nonetheless, insomnia complaint is often trivialized and left untreated. Our recent community-based study conducted in Hong Kong showed that only around 40% of adults and 10% of the children and adolescents with insomnia in the general population reported having sought help for their sleep problems. Despite the high prevalence of insomnia and its adverse consequences, there is a significant unmet need for timely intervention of insomnia in the general population of Hong Kong.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is a non-pharmacological approach with a strong evidence base, which has been recommended as the first-line treatment for adult insomnia. However, CBT-I is not commonly available in Hong Kong and remains under-utilized in the routine clinical practice (over 90% of Hong Kong Chinese insomnia patients did not receive any CBT-I) because of a lack of well-trained therapists, high-cost, time constraint and geographical limitations. As such, providing CBT-I based information and treatment strategies through a more accessible and cost-effective platform is warranted, in order to provide timely support to people suffering from insomnia and help them to alleviate this distressing sleep problem.

This project developed a smartphone APP embedded with the evidence-based core components of CBT-I for people struggling with insomnia so as to provide them with adequate knowledge, necessary skills and supportive tools for managing their sleep problems. The information about this APP can be found here.

Project Coordinator: Dr. Janet Hui-wen HSIAO
Project year: 2018
Project website:

HKU Face Camp aims to enhance primary school students’ interest in cognitive science, in particular in face recognition and eye movements. Primary school students are invited to participate in a 3.5-hour interactive learning programme with a detective storyline. Participants go through short talks and demos as well as hands-on experience in various face recognition tasks with eye-tracking techniques and cognitive tasks. Participants can make use of the knowledge learned from the camp to identify a thief among suspects at the end of the camp. The activities are based on face recognition and eye movement-related theories and research.

Participants learn various face recognition strategies and knowledge. For example, they learn that those who look at the eyes more perform better in face recognition as compared with those who look mainly at the nose (Chuk, Crookes, Hayward, Chan, & Hsiao, 2017). In composite face task, they learn that people tend to process faces as a whole, and that focusing on specific features might be advantageous for face recognition. Besides, they learn to pose happy, sad, angry, and fearful facial expressions, as well as the facial features crucial for recognising each of these expressions. Participants also receive a personalised report summarising their own eye movement pattern and cognitive performance at the end of the camp.

Project Coordinator: Dr. Shirley X. LI
Project year: 2017/18
Project website:
Educational booklet: Educational booklet of this project can be downloaded here

Sleep problems are often associated with a number of negative consequences, such as excessive daytime sleepiness, neurocognitive impairments, poor academic and work performance, as well as impaired mental and physical health. However, this important health topic has often been neglected, receiving limited attention in the community (e.g. school settings). Getting adequate sleep is often placed at the bottom of one’s priority list in our 24/7 society nowadays. People tend to think that sleep is dispensable and non-essential, which research suggests otherwise. In fact, not only children and adolescents but also the general adult population have a lack of adequate knowledge about the importance of sleep to maintaining good health, and often have a number of misconceptions and misunderstanding about sleep.

The proposed project aims to disseminate sleep-related health knowledge in the community in order to raise the public’s awareness towards the importance of sleep and to increase the public’s understanding about common sleep problems and adequate sleep hygiene practice.

Project Coordinator: Dr. Shirley X. LI
Project year: 2016/17
Project website:
Educational booklet: Educational booklet of this project can be downloaded here

Sleep problems are very common in children with ASD, with a prevalence rate as high as 83%, and often pose significant challenge and stress to the families. Difficulty in falling asleep and frequent night waking are the most prominent sleep problems and the common concerns expressed by the parents of children with ASD. Sleep disruption may exacerbate problematic daytime behaviours (e.g. attention deficit/hyperactivity symptoms, repetitive behaviours) and substantially impair daytime functioning in children with ASD. Therefore, timely and effective targeted intervention to improve sleep in children with ASD have important implications with potential wide-ranging benefits. Despite the research evidence showing the effectiveness of these sleep-focused behavioural and educational interventions, accessibility to sleep health knowledge and information as well as evidence-based recommendations to improve sleep in the context of ASD is limited.

The proposed project, with the use of the Internet as a vehicle for knowledge delivery and the facilitation of the local NGOs, aims to provide sleep education to support and equip parents of children with autism spectrum disorders with the necessary knowledge and strategies to manage their child’s sleep problems and help to improve their child’s sleep and health.

Project Coordinator: Prof. Tatia Mei-chun LEE
Project year: 2016

Evidence-based clinical practice starts with the use of validated tests for assessment. In order to achieve this goal, much research effort has been devoted to study the psychometric properties of the tests so as to evaluate their applicability to Chinese. My laboratory has been developing new and valid assessment procedures applicable to Chinese. To consolidate our effort of test development, in 2003, a normative database of neuropsychological tests applicable to the Chinese population was published. This book has become an essential reference for research and quality evidence-based practice in the field of clinical psychology and neuropsychology. This line of work has been extended to the mainland, leading to the publication of the second edition (2009), and its revised version (2010), of the normative database applicable to Chinese in Hong Kong and the mainland, as well as other normative data. My team has been and will continue to provide consultation on cross-cultural neuropsychological practice to promote quality neuropsychological research and practice in various cultural/geographical settings.

Project Coordinator: Prof. Cecilia CHENG
Project year: 2015/16

The Internet has become a part of people’s lives. At a young age, children begin to use the Internet to learn, explore, and to entertain themselves. However, without proper education, children are vulnerable to unsafe and unhealthy use of the Internet that can develop into more severe problems —Internet addiction. In order to address the service gap, the Social and Health Psychology Lab designed the project named “Cultivating a Generation of I-Smart Kids: Applying Quality-of-(Real)-Life Theory to Internet Addiction Prevention”. It is a project based on theories derived from research conducted by the lab. The overarching aim of the project is to reduce children’s risk of developing Internet addiction by empowering them with knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to enhance their quality of real life. Core elements of the project include preventive education programmes targeting to serve 3,000 primary school students and consultation sessions that help school executives to incorporate elements of Healthy Use of Internet into their school-based Healthy School Policy.

Project Coordinator: Dr. Christian S. CHAN
Project year: 2015/16

The main objective of the current train-the-trainer project is to continue the work of providing post-disaster mental health training, consultation, and supervision to nonprofessional service providers in the Philippines.

The impact of large-scale disasters on mental health is well documented. Given the general lack of existing resources in hard-hit regions in the Philippines, including Leyte, in which the city of Tacloban is located, it is important to find efficient and effect means to identify survivors who are in need of mental health services and provide the needed service without relying only on professionals. In fact, according to local providers, there is currently no clinical psychologist and only a handful of psychiatrists serving in Leyte.

The knowledge I intend to transfer includes non-clinician administrated screening methods and basic psychological intervention. We adopt the stepped care and task-shifting model, whereby non-professionals will be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to perform basic yet important tasks, such as delivering psychoeducation, providing effective social support, help with sleep disturbances, and relaxation techniques. This would help free up professional resources for those with more severe conditions.

Although such knowledge maybe delivered via video recordings, face-to-face training provides the flexibility to adjust teaching material as well as pace according to the experience of the audience and their needs. Given that stable and reliable telecommunication infrastructure—especially for high speed internet—is still lacking in many regions in Leyte, internet-based workshops are not feasible at this stage. In addition, in person training would permit me to do live case demonstration with survivors, as well as more effectively respond to questions and concerns.

The project intends to extent the current work to provide training to more survivors who also are service providers in Leyte and Cebu. These trainings serve multiple functions: To help the survivors to take care of themselves to prevent burnout and compassion fatigue; to help them identify high-risk individuals in their neighborhood and service catchment area and make referrals if needed; to equip them with basic psychological intervention skills to aid those in need; and to collectively develop and execute a longer-term care model that is culturally sensitive and cost effective. Across the six field trips, I have partnered with a number of key stakeholders, including the Tacloban city office and local NGOs. We have on going dialogues about the design and implementation of longer-term public health services that fit the needs of Leyte and Cebu more generally.

Project Coordinator: Dr. Christian S. CHAN
Project year: 2014/15

The goal of the project was to provide capacity building for aid-providers in response to natural disasters in general and Super Typhoon Haiyan in particular. Typhoon Haiyan, which made landfall in November 2013, was the most devastating typhoon in the recorded history of the Philippines. It killed over 6,000 people, injured nearly 30,000 people, and displaced many more.

Three trips to the Philippines were made. In total, six workshops were delivered in the Philippines: Three in Tacloban, one in Tanauan, Cebu, and Manila. In addition, one extra workshop was provided to Hong Kong volunteers going to Nepal after the earthquakes. Five of the seven workshops were two-day long. The remaining two were one-day workshops. The workshops in the Philippines were conducted with local partners, Dr. M. Buot (psychiatrist) and Dr. M. Maggay (social anthropologist).

The workshops focused on psychoeducation and basic skills training. More specifically, the topics covered included stress and coping, principles of trauma care, posttraumatic stress, complicated grief, basic assessment, sleep, relaxation skills, posttraumatic growth, resilience, stepped care model, and task shifting.

In total, the workshops reached close to 200 attendees. The attendees consisted of community health workers, social workers, faith based organization workers, medical students, midwifery students, university faculty and administrators, student leaders, journalists, government officials, church pastors, and NGO personnel.

In addition, a number of consultation meetings were held with academics (University of the Philippines & Eastern Visayas State University) and government officials (Tacloban City) in the Philippines.

The feedback we received has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. For example, a medical student who also serves as a community doctor in a rural area in Leyte shared with us that after attending our workshop, she taught some of the learned skills to over 100 adolescents. The scalability of the training is promising.

B) Community Service

Our faculty members participate actively in various kinds of community service which in general refers to service undertaken on a voluntary basis for international, regional and local councils, boards, committees as published normally in the HK Government Civil and Miscellaneous list; committees and working parties of government departments; quasi-governmental organization for international, regional and local councils, boards, committees/working groups of government departments. For details, please visit the HKU Scholarship Hub.

HKU Psychology