The percentage of people aged 60 and above in the Asia Pacific zone, including China and Japan, is set to double from 12% of the population in 2016 to 24% in 2050, as can be gleaned from the World Bank database, that will consequently result in the escalation of the number of patients suffering from chronic ailments such as diabetes, stroke and eye-related diseases.
This was the focus of discussions at the forum on Transforming Aging with Health Innovation held on December 1 at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in partnership with multinational pharmaceutical company Bayer attended by healthcare experts, policy makers, innovators, NGOs, the media as well as academic and corporate stakeholders from across the region.
According to the World Health Organization’s latest global status report on non-communicable diseases, the yearly number of deaths from chronic diseases in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific will continue to be highest globally and are projected to increase to 13 million and 14 million, respectively, in 2030.
“There is no doubt that across Asia Pacific, populations are aging,” said Yoriko Yasukawa, regional director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Asia Pacific. “This is the result of reduced mortality, rising longevity, and reduced fertility. But it does pose the challenge of helping the elderly population to maintain good health. Chronic diseases may prevent an aging person from living an active and productive life. We recognize the role that health innovation can bring in enhancing the quality of life of those patients living with chronic diseases.”
The event was officiated by Dr. Amy Khor, senior minister of state for the Singapore Ministry of Health.
The WHO has reported that only 50% of patients adhere to long-term therapies even as such are critical to the management of chronic diseases. Cognitive decline and the taking of four or more medications (polypharmacy) usually lead to poor medication obedience, the WHO stresses, resulting in decreased therapeutic benefits for the patient, frequent visits to the physician due to deteriorating condition, increased healthcare expenditure or even over-treatment.
The changing demographics should not be viewed as a crisis, Yasukawa continued, “but as an opportunity for us to reap the benefits of the knowledge, experience and skills that older people can offer to society.” She emphasized that protecting and promoting the right of older people to a healthy and active life is an integral part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, “which seeks to ensure a life of dignity for all people, leaving no one behind.”
For its part, NUS has “long recognized the multi-dimensional needs of the silver sector,” even as their researchers continue to “develop innovative ideas and inventions to address the well-being of seniors and their caregivers.” Dr. Lily Chan, chief executive officer of NUS Enterprise, said they are “delighted to partner with Bayer on this exciting initiative to translate innovations and technologies into new solutions that will create an impact on the aging community in Singapore, the region and beyond.”
The entrepreneurial arm of NUS is widely regarded as Asia’s Thought Leader for Innovation and Enterprise, with its initiatives complementing and adding a unique perspective to NUS teaching and research. NUS Enterprise plays a pivotal role in advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at the country’s leading university.
One of these innovations is the “Grants4Apps Singapore” which was launched during the forum.