Can automation help South-East Asia live longer and happier?

A healthy community is a happy community, where individuals can pursue their dreams and be confident of a long, able life. But in many communities around South-East Asia, health - and the livelihoods of countless families - is under attack from chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Could automation reduce the impact of these diseases and provide healthier, happier lives to people no matter where they live or how much they earn?

In 2012, according to the World Health Organization, ischemic heart disease - which causes heart attacks - killed nearly 70 thousand people in Thailand. Strokes killed nearly 350 thousand people in Indonesia that same year. And nearly 7 percent of people in both countries had diabetes as of 2012, putting them at higher risk of everything from heart attacks to blindness and kidney failure.

Most of these chronic diseases are caused by lifestyle factors like smoking and an unhealthy diet. Smoking, which raises the risk of cardiovascular disease a lot, costs Thais more than 12 billion baht every year in medical costs, of which heart attacks and strokes are the largest ones. Not only that, many of these risks are becoming far more common. Obesity, which increases the risk of diabetes, used to affect nearly 10 percent of Indonesian children in 2010; by 2013, that had doubled to almost 20 percent. In Jakarta, nearly 3 in every 10 children are obese!

“Cardiovascular disease and diabetes can have a devastating impact on individuals and families,” said Mr. Kazuhide Kondo, Managing Director of Omron Healthcare Thailand and President Director of Healthcare Indonesia. “Workers who suffer heart attacks or strokes are often unable to return to their jobs, and may require expensive medical check-ups for the rest of their lives. This puts a huge burden on families, particularly in rural or poorer areas where hospitals can be hard to reach and lacking in both infrastructure and qualified staff. And still the frequency of heart disease and diabetes is rising, meaning more and more Thais and Indonesians are finding themselves at risk of these life-destroying conditions from an even earlier age.”

What can we do to stop South-East Asia’s silent killers?

Catching disease before it’s too late

Although there is no cure yet for chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, they can be prevented and controlled if doctors detect the warning signs like high blood pressure early. When detection becomes more affordable and simple, people will be less likely to be caught unaware - and more likely to avoid the lethal costs of these diseases.

Fortunately, blood pressure monitors are cheaper and more accessible than ever before, including those that people can use in their own home. New technology can also make blood pressure check-ups both simpler and more accurate. Omron’s Vascular Screening Device, for example, is a blood pressure monitor that transmits ultrasound waves to measure the index of arterial wall stiffness and detect blockages or blood clots with even greater accuracy than standard electronic monitors. The device is also extremely portable and requires little additional infrastructure, making it well suited for clinics in larger countries where the nearest city can often be hours away.

Community support and education is equally as important as these new technologies to combating cardiovascular disease. In 2016, Omron renewed its partnership with Yayasan Jantung Indonesia, a non-profit aimed at raising awareness of health issues and healthy lifestyles, to make preventive screening and checkups more available throughout the country.

“We are very honored to continue our collaboration with Yayasan Jantung Indonesia (YJI) for another two years,” said Mr. Kondo of the partnership. “Heart disease is a very real concern. With heart disease on the rise in Indonesia, more people are now at risk and it is important to educate Indonesians on how they can maintain their health. At Omron, we believe in taking preventive measures. Therefore, we look forward to building on the momentum we have created with YJI in the areas of public awareness, education, counseling and access to health monitoring technology.

“Since we invented our first digital thermometers and blood pressure monitors over 30 years ago, we have been passionate about empowering people to take charge of their health at home through precise technology. We believe that monitoring blood pressure at home in addition to regular monitoring at a clinic can help in early detection and prevention of hypertension, and the onset of heart disease."

Take control of your health today

In fact, people can now take charge of their own health checkups without needing to see a doctor every time. More and more people are using “wearable” devices like fitness bands nowadays, but handheld devices that let you monitor your own health statistics have been around for years. Did you know that Omron developed our first blood pressure monitor for home use in 1978? Today, Omron’s Blood Glucose Monitors, another example of monitoring devices, are small and simple enough for anyone to use. The devices allow people to take quick and painless blood samples, then calculate their current blood glucose levels, which can help them and their doctors determine their risk levels for either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Such devices are very affordable - much cheaper than hospital visits - and also allow people to monitor themselves more frequently. Apart from early detection, this is extremely valuable for those who already have diabetes, as it allows them to manage their sugar intake levels with much more accuracy. This, in turn, can lower the costs of care and give patients greater flexibility in how they balance their treatments with their lifestyle.

The silent killers of heart disease and diabetes can inflict huge damage on not just individual lives, but also the communities which they live in. However, simple and affordable technologies can catch these killers in their tracks. In places like Thailand and Indonesia where the risk of these conditions is rising, automation can help make it easier and more affordable for people to get the care they need.

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