Research Projects
Public Health Effects of Air Pollution on Mortality and Admissions to Hospitals

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☒ MPhil/PhD ☑ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

Objective and Significance:

Routine population and health data are generated in birth/death registries and in the health services. They provide useful information for public health surveillance and for determination of health hazards in the environment. The objects are to:

  1. assess the day-to-day and geographic variations of health outcomes;
  2. identify the observed occurrences of the health outcomes which are higher than expected, and relate them with environmental factors;
  3. establish a public surveillance system suing routinely available population and health service data; and
  4. disseminate public heath data and results for public health practitioners and policy makers.


Mortality and hospital admission data, including the addresses of the subjects, dates and causes of death and admission, for period 1995-97 in whole Hong Kong are available. The health outcomes were related to air pollution and socioeconomic/demographic variables from previous studies by the School of Public Health.

Further research works are needed in order to establish a public heath surveillance system. Routine health data have to be identified, interpreted and disseminated timely in a systematic way.

Dr LW Tian, School of Public Health

Dr Linwei Tian is an environmental epidemiologist with a focus on air pollution and health. He has been conducting field epidemiology and laboratory work on indoor air pollution and lung cancer in Xuan Wei County, which has the highest lung cancer rates among women in China. Identifying the carcinogenic agents in coal and its emissions would affect local intervention policies and gain insights into the carcinogenesis mechanisms.

Meanwhile, Dr Tian gains a strong research interest in exploring the potential role of food contamination by biogenic siliceous needles in the endemic cancer of esophagus in China. The geographic patterns of esophagus cancer endemics offers a unique natural experiment in assessing environmental carcinogenesis. Based on the previous evidence on glass (silica fiber) roots of cancer, Dr. Tian hypothesizes wheat bract-derived glass fibers and needle-shaped diatoms in guts of trash fish as a major causative factor of esophagus cancer endemic in North China and southern China, respectively.

Urbanized Hong Kong provides another unique setting to study air pollution and health. Its high density of people and vehicles, high-rise buildings, a rich resource of accessible environmental measurement and healthcare data, and various air pollution control policies offers a great opportunity for valuable environmental epidemiology. Compared with static data, time series data contain far more information at our disposal for the inference of causality. Dr. Tian has been trying to examine the earlier ambiguity and enhance causal inference of the environment-health associations by contrasting the traditional time series regression models with the recent methods of causal discovery from big data.

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For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project description.  Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website. General admission enquiries should be directed to

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.