This is the second blogpost of a series based on a panel discussion at the Resilience in Secondary Cities Forum, a two-day conference jointly organized by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Affairs, Oxfam, and Microsoft in March 2013. Four panelists were joined by 30 mayors from emerging cities in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam to explore solutions on addressing pressing urban problems and discuss how technology can help build cities of the future.
Future-proofing cities: Health, Education, Public Safety, and Cloud Technologies (Part 2)
Building a robust healthcare system is a major priority for government leaders around the world. During the panel, Gabe Rijpma, Senior Director of Health & Social Services for Asia, Microsoft discussed the changing demographics of populations today and the need for healthcare systems to be prepared to deal with the challenges ahead.
Of the world’s population, 3.6 billion people reside within Asia and yet many communities within the region struggle to get access to basic healthcare. It is a telling fact that we still have a long way to go towards building and delivering the healthcare systems and communities to help people in the ways that are truly effective. Technology can and will be a key enabler in helping governments around the world achieve this end goal.
Citing global trends and statistics, Gabe says that our communities are facing a tectonic demographic shift. In 2012, 12% of the Asian population was above the age of 60. By 2050, that percentage is expected to rise to 22%. In many world nations including cities across China and Singapore, we are faced with the reality of an ageing population and it begets the question of whether we have the right infrastructure in place to support these people so that they can be able to live happier and fulfilled lives.
Gabe believes that many governments aren’t ready for what some people term the ‘silver tsunami’ and just can’t build facilities fast enough to look after and care for this demographic. It will take a collective effort at a family unit level, a community level, a city level and a nationwide level to think about how we can build healthcare systems that support this oncoming trend.
“Many governments aren’t ready for what some people term the ‘silver tsunami’ and just can’t build facilities fast enough.”
Another important aspect of building strong healthcare systems is addressing the issues that arise from the diseases of populations, says Gabe. Today, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, are commonplace chronic diseases that pose a significant problem from a population health perspective.
One of the contributing factors to these chronic diseases is obesity – 55% of Asia’s population is overweight and this fact leads us to ask if obesity will put a long-term strain on our healthcare systems. City and country leaders often worry about the people and the infrastructure built for them but rarely address the seemingly smaller issues such as running and inspiring healthy living campaigns at a community level which can have a strong and long-term impact on the overall productivity and well-being of their citizens.
Encouraging people to take part in a bit of physical activity, helping them to reduce high blood pressure, and getting them to be more careful about what they eat are three areas that leaders can work on. Technology can support this by helping to drive personal health and wellness in a community by measuring the participation levels in games, organized runs and other activities. It can also help in remote care and case management. In Singapore, the government is faced with the reality that they do not have sufficient retirement villages and nursing homes and they are looking at how they can support elderly people to live in their own homes longer through the inclusion of technology within their living quarters.
Finally, technology can play a significant role in gleaning insights from healthcare data. Gabe stresses that it’s not just about collecting data but how we are turning that data into actionable insights. He believes that the wellness of a population can be well managed with the use of the right technology through which leaders can obtain the insights and data they need to make the right decisions to build the kind of healthy cities we need for the 21st century.