Global life expectancies have been increasing for the past decade, however it has begun levelling off and even declined for some demographic groups.

Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer and mental illnesses such as stress, anxiety and depression are now major health issues. However, the CEO of Johnson& Johnson believes that 'we have the opportunity to make the generation born now the healthiest generation in history - "Gen H"'.

Much of today's healthcare system largely addresses illnesses instead of preventative methods such as healthy, nourishing food. Worsening the situation is the lack of healthcare professionals globally.

The current system is unable to handle the increasing burden of lifestyle diseases due to financial problems or lack of manpower and an engagement-oriented model.

The choice to focus on wellness instead of illnesses

Around USD2.9 trillion is spent on healthcare annually, with 75% on chronic lifestyle diseases that could have been easily prevented or managed through dietary changes and positive lifestyle choices. Understandably, there are many determinants to the health of an individual. However, lifetime health has been proven to be associated for 60% to our behaviour and environment, 30% to genetics and 10% to healthcare.

Perhaps it is time to shift the focus of addressing illnesses, to scientific wellness.

Wellness is a continuous, conscious and active process of making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life. Not only is it being free from illness, but it is also a dynamic process of change and growth. Many have taken first steps by investigating and experimenting with 'superfoods' and nutrient powerhouses such as chia seeds, turmeric and ginger.

Digital preventative medicine has also drastically lowered the number of chronic diseases patients who end up in hospitals, however chronic illnesses still make up for 50% of global health issues.

The rise in technology meant a faster-paced society, increasing connectivity and accessibility to millenials. Therefore two years ago, many health start-ups have begun focusing on wellness through wearables, Internet of Things, mobile devices and mobile-enabled home monitoring devices, boosting data collection abilities, coaching and better management of health.

Health technology to boost wellness solutions

The most famous wellness devices are fitness bands, helping people to track their steps and heart rates, as a form of help to manage weight and blood pressure to lead a healthy life. Now other wellness devices have surfaced, combining sensors, AI and data.

Some examples include Tiemppo, which are smart insoles to help improve running form or Hello's Sense that measures the quality of sleep. Others manage chronic illnesses such as DarioHealth Corp's development of a smartphone-compatible glucose monitor to help Type 2 diabetes patients.

The data can then be shared with caregivers and physicians anywhere in the world, increasing efficiency and connectivity between doctor and patient. This continuous monitoring of the chronic vitals can also have a significant impact on the reduction of deviated vitals.

Metabolic technology and ingestibles include AIRE, which helps IBS sufferers test for food intolerances, or Bitome, that monitors the hydration levels of an individual. Bio-implants have surfaced as well, such as Circadia, which records an individual's health data such as temperature, blood pressure, blood glucose and oxygenation levels, sub-dermally.

The ability of these systems to be personalised provides a high engagement model that incentivises consumers, enabling easier lifestyle modifications. The availability of these platforms also allows for data collection that will help researchers understand ways to boost wellness and prevent diseases.

Placing importance on nutrition to prevent illnesses

Millenials are also more health conscious and focus on wellness has also been placed on food as medicine. Functional beverages such as blue algae latte and mushroom teas boast health benefits such as preventing cardiovascular diseases and packed with anti-oxidants. Health food start-ups have also tied up with healthcare service providers to enable consumers to order healthy, nutritionally balanced meals.

Medical schools have taken first steps by equipping healthcare professionals with the knowledge to treat millenials by incorporating courses to teach students how to cook healthily and translate their basic science education into patient care and advice. MIMS

Read more:
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