Sugar Sugar Sugar! Having lived in Asia for nearly 10 years now I have a huge appreciation for the varied and exciting food on offer. Prior to my Asian experience I grew up in the U.K where lunch consisted of which sandwich filling to go with; normally chicken won the day. Admittedly the West now offers something more than just sandwiches to satisfy that hungry lunch palate but Asia still dominates in the variation. There is now a huge health issue on the horizon though in Asia and as Europe (and to a lesser extent America) has switched to a healthier lifestyle with a balanced diet and exercise becoming the “norm” as opposed to the exception, Asia is still very much lagging behind.
As of 2016, 422 million people (approximately 6% of the world population) were suffering from diabetes. This is up from 108 million in 1980. According to The World Health Organisation the fastest prevalence of diabetes is expected to occur in Asia and Africa, where most people with diabetes will probably live by 2030. The two big (and obvious) areas which need changing are diet and exercise. Focusing on Singapore, this is fairly difficult for two main reasons; number 1 food is a religion and number 2 the phrase “it’stoo hot to exercise outside lah” can be heard from HDB Estates all over the island. Now I’m not suggesting telling the Uncle who has eaten Nasi Lemak for breakfast for the last 50 years that he can no longer consume his favourite dish to start the day, but there does need to be a level of education and this has to start at school and focus on the younger generation. To be fair there’s a harsh argument to suggest you’ll never change the ways of the older generation and actually their diet as kids was probably fairly good based on the lack of imported goods.
If we then look at “how” we educate the younger generation as witnessed by many previous studies the most effective method of education is through fun and interactive activates. Kids aren’t turned on by being “talked at” but by engaging and making the experience memorable and this is where the concept of sports analytics enters the diabetes (and actual general health) debate. By showing kids and their parents the ability to measure, monitor and develop their eating habits and exercise regime, you can build this into activities of daily living and add an element of competitiveness.
Wouldn’t it be great to hear your child one day say about his brother “Wah loe! Jack has eaten 2 more portions of fruit than me today”. Of course, I’m exaggerating but we need to look at changing the mindset of kids and more importantly their parents to make this change happen. A simple wearable can assist which shows what you have eaten, the amount of exercise you have taken and how this translates into what impact this has on your body (the development part of analytics). Moreover, “experts” can be online to guide you through the maze of nutrition and fitness, thus building up a complete eco-system involving not only yourself but all stakeholders who have an interest in your development. We’re a huge step away from this in Singapore and have a lot of catching up to do with other parts of the globe but we do have the people willing to drive such an initiative and with the prospect of diseases such as diabetes becoming more prevalent, hopefully the will of the general public will also drive Singapore and Asia to become a healthier environment!