Can ICT Help Society Address Non-Communicable Diseases?

Yesterday and today, a high level meeting of the UNs 65th session in NY addressed the issue of non-communicable or lifestyle diseases. Articles about these issues appeared in an Financial Times editorial yesterday and a full page in the Washington Post Health section today.

These non-communicable diseases; cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes alone account for more than half of the globes nearly 60M deaths each year. In most regions of the world that is more than HIV and malaria combined.

The four biggest causes of these deaths are tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, unhealthy diet and lack of physical exercise. All is not bad, because these products are for the most part used safely and as well as bringing positive attributes such as nutrition and even pleasure, the businesses behind them also bring  increasing economic prosperity to developing countries. A corporate responsibility/sustainability issue if ever I heard one !

But are there ICT solutions we can bring to bear to mitigate some of these problems ?

What if a consumer had a customized medical plan in the cloud, created by their doctor. It would identify for them an appropriate daily intake of nutrition and alcohol for example.   The consumer would carry with them a smart device and scan bar codes on items before use/consumption. The device zips off to the cloud and retrieves the attributes of the products. It returns data to the device, matches  it against that consumers profile and their previous consumption that day and gives them a green, amber or red light indicator on whether or not to proceed !

I know,  many hurdles, not least of all privacy and security,  network and device availability, sufficient product information.  But who would have thought a couple of years ago I would be able to retrieve instantaneous health ratings for a product. Who would have thought mobile health workers would be able to retrieve a patient’s health records on-line and on the move.   Who would have thought I would be able to trace my melon from supermarket to farm !

Corporations need to be looking for innovative solutions to societal problems. My envisaged solution may not be exactly how it turns out, but hopefully it will inspire you to think of even better ways to utilize IT and communications to solve sustainability issues.


  1. Comments 4

  2. Rick Oakley 12:01 am on September 22, 2011

    Nice article and an interesting suggestion, I remember an RFID paper with a similar overtone: smart medicine cupboards which are connected to the internet to help ensure that the patient takes the correct meds, at the appropriate time in the right dose. Providing accurate nutritional information on-line is an ongoing challenge for corporates but I can see the consumer benefits of linking this information with a medical or meal plan. Perhaps we need a "Nutritional Good Guide"?


  3. KevinMoss 8:59 am on September 22, 2011

    Hi Rick, thanks for expanding the scope of possibilities. I don't have my I-pad with me right now, but tonight I will scan a Mars product and see if Good Guide has you covered yet !


  4. Yury Rozenman 9:10 am on September 22, 2011

    It is a huge area of focus for most of the pharmaceutical companies, from a number of different perspectives, certaintly track and trace through the full supply chain from the factory gate to the end consumer (patient), support for e-pedigree, anti-counterfeiting and monitoring of "grey markets". At one of our labs in Adastral Park, UK we demo capabilities that combine RFID tagging for supply chain visibility and patient safety such as ensuring that the patient takes the right drug at the right time and right frequency. In the future ingestible sensors will play a role in the development of "body area networks" to monitor compliance, persistance and adherence of patients to the drug regimen. This is very exciting area as it can really support patients with chronic conditions, connect with carers and provide support with respect to adverse effects, reminder service, complications, timely switching, etc.


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