$21 Million Gift from Lee Kum Kee Family to Fund Research on Links between Psychological Well-Being and Physical Health
At a signing ceremony in April in Hong Kong, a $21 million gift from the Lee Kum Kee Family was announced to establish the new Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The new Center will support the identification of psychological, social, and emotional strengths and assets that may protect against some diseases and enable people to enjoy longer, happier, and healthier lives.
The donors, the Lee Kum Kee Family, have chosen to name the Center after Lee Kum Sheung, who in 1888 invented oyster sauce in the southern Chinese city of Nanshui and established the Lee Kum Kee business. Over the 128 years since then, Lee Kum Kee Sauce Group and LKK Health Products Group have grown into two multinational companies headquartered in Hong Kong.
Contributing to Rigorous and Interdisciplinary Science of Health and Happiness
Science is still limited in its ability to understand whether and how positive aspects of the social environment—such as close relationships with family and friends, a meaningful job, regular healthy exercise, relaxing leisure activities, and a positive mind-set—may enhance psychological and physical well-being, thereby increasing years of healthy aging. Additionally, scientists hope to understand those negative social circumstances, such as poverty, food and energy insecurity, or a lack of a meaningful job or social relationships, that also have a significant impact on how long someone lives and how healthy they are as they age.
The faculty who will lead the new Center see the gift as an opportunity to broaden the focus of public health and medical research beyond work focused primarily on deficits or risk factors that lead to disease and the treatments needed to cure or slow disease progression. The new Center will focus on the positive aspects of health—and also illuminate factors that promote attaining and maintaining high levels of well-being and protect against conditions such as cardiovascular diseases.
The goal of the Center is to make discoveries that can inform personal behaviors, medical care, public health programs, and wide-ranging public policies not traditionally associated with health care and medicine but that can help people live longer, happier, and healthier lives.
The Center will focus on both new research and assembling what is already known about the role of happiness and other components of well-being in relation to physical health. Much of that research knowledge is scattered across studies conducted in a broad range of disciplines.
And the Center will coordinate research among faculty, researchers, and students from across Harvard University, spanning multiple disciplines—from health communications to psychology, from nutrition and exercise physiology to basic biology, and from medicine to epidemiology and population sciences.
Initial efforts will focus on several areas:
- Identifying and developing a measurement instrument—a positive psychological well-being index, or “happiness index”—that can assess psychological well-being in a systematic and scientifically sound manner. This tool will go beyond more limited measures of happiness most commonly used today, making it possible to identify individuals and groups that may be highly distressed or, conversely, highly satisfied with their lives. For the highly distressed groups, such a tool could measure the effectiveness of targeted interventions in promoting greater happiness and improved health. Among those who are highly satisfied, the tool could be used to explore what psychological, emotional, and social factors contribute most to happier, longer, and healthier lives.
- Understanding the relationship between psychological well-being and cardiovascular health, healthy aging, and longevity.
- Determining the effects of interventions promoting psychological well-being, such as mindfulness-based practices, on health and happiness. This research will look at the potential of these practices to influence diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disease.
- Examining the role of communications—ranging from television programming to social media—on engagement, health, and happiness.
“‘Si Li Ji Ren’ (considering others’ interests) is Lee Kum Kee’s core value, so we are very proud to support scientific advancement for the good of people around the globe,” says Sammy Lee, Chairman & Managing Director of LKK Health Products Group. “This new Center is dedicated to the science of health and happiness, which is a fitting tribute to my great-grandfather Lee Kum Sheung. Through the Center’s efforts in the field of health and happiness, we hope more people can increase their awareness, take more preventive measures, and eventually, become healthier and happier.”
“Would you rather live a long, happy, and healthy life, or a life that is merely without disease?” asks Professor Laura Kubzansky, the Lee Kum Kee Professor of Social and Behavioral Health at the Harvard Chan School and co-director of the new Center. “Medical and psychological practice and research have traditionally focused on the diseases and deficits that cause poor health. But there is real value in focusing on the positive side as well—the assets that keep us healthy or help us recover more quickly from disease and injury. More rigorous research is urgently needed to understand these positive assets and how to promote them for millions of people around the world.”
“Happiness is often talked about as if it were a cute catchphrase,” says Professor K. “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication at the Harvard Chan School and co-director of the new Center. “But in fact, happiness is a product of how one is engaged with the world. If one is being treated inequitably in society or lives in poverty, there may be physical factors that influence your health such as limited access to nutritious food or health care. In addition, one’s opportunities for engagement with the world and with other people may be limited. This Center will enable us to investigate in a systematic and rigorous way the factors that promote engagement, communication, community, and connection with others, and how engagement or lack of engagement can influence happiness and ultimately health.”
“By leveraging what is known together with new research discoveries, we believe the new Center will develop evidence-based recommendations and interventions that can demonstrably improve the health and well-being of individuals and entire populations,” says David Hunter, acting dean of the Harvard Chan School. “Our goal is to bring about enlightened public policies and public health programs that can affect the health of large numbers of people, as well as set new priorities in medical practice and personal behaviors that can help individuals live longer, healthier lives.”
About the Lee Kum Kee Family
In 1888, Mr. Lee Kum Sheung invented oyster sauce in the southern Chinese city of Nanshui, Guangdong Province, and established the Lee Kum Kee business. Over the 128 years since then, five generations of the Lee Kum Kee Family have adhered to the core values of “Si Li Ji Ren” (considering others’ interests) with constant practices of giving back to the community.
At present, the Family owns Lee Kum Kee Sauce Group and LKK Health Products Group, two multinational companies headquartered in Hong Kong, that respectively specialize in sauces and condiments, and Chinese herbal health products and services, Chinese herbal plantations, mobile internet platforms, and property investment. The companies’ well-known registered trademarks include “Lee Kum Kee,” “Infinitus,” and “HeHa.”