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Speech by Ms. Naomi Kitahara at the official launch of S-Health: Mobile App for Health Care of Older Persons

Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lan, Deputy Director General of the General Office for Population and Family Planning, Ministry of Health;

Representatives of the Ministry of Health; the media, UN and UNFPA colleagues and online participants;

Distinguished guests;

 

Good afternoon,

 

8 months ago, UNFPA and the Ministry of Health introduced the “S-Health” mobile app for a beta test. Since then, the “S-Health” app has been upgraded to provide a free-of-charge platform for everyone to find information on health in general and health care for older persons in particular. This reliable and easy-to-use application meets the increasing care needs and ensures digital inclusion of older persons.

I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Health for close collaboration, and the Government of Japan for financial support in the development and upgrade of the “S-Health” application to provide good care to Vietnamese older people. The “S-Health” app today can provide a wide range of reliable health information and guidelines, which are relevant for older persons. The app also includes a function for older persons to monitor their daily health indicators with an additional upgrade to manage personal schedules for taking medicine or health check-ups. It now allows connections among family members and with family doctor networks and nursing homes. The “S-health” app has also been re-designed to become more age-friendly in terms of contrast and colours, and easier to use.

Dear participants,

Globally, in 2019, there were 703 million persons aged 65 and above. It is projected that the number is doubled in the next three decades, reaching more than 1.5 billion persons in 2050. Vietnam is one of the most rapidly ageing countries in the world. It is projected that by 2036, Vietnam will become an “aged” country, and the number of older people aged 60 and above will reach 21.3 million people, almost one fifth of the total population.

Older people are among the most vulnerable groups in society, especially in humanitarian and emergency situations.  Special needs of older persons, particularly in terms of health care, have to be catered for with comprehensive and integrated social protection mechanisms, and this is more critical in the COVID-19 context.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on older people and put a spotlight on the health and rights of older persons in society. While the virus spreads among persons of all ages, older persons and those with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of developing severe conditions and having higher death rates. It is clear that the fatality rate for older persons is higher, and for those over 80, it is even five times higher than the global average. Therefore, older persons must be a priority in Viet Nam’s efforts to overcome COVID-19 to ensure no one is left behind in humanitarian response as well as in development effort.

At the same time, both population ageing and digitalization are part of the world’s Mega Trends which we all have to respond to. Digital technology is continuing to reshape the way we access health information and care services. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the trend more visible: digital access has become a new social determinant of health. More than ever, the ability of older people to use digital technologies may affect their health status and quality of life.

To date, having a health-care mobile app is an indispensable solution for tele-health because globally, the internet usage of older persons, especially the young old (60-69 years old) has increased significantly since COVID-19 outbreak (according to Ericsson’s Report 2021). More than 80% of those 60-69 years old are using internet in 2020 as compared to 62% in 2015. According to the 2019 Vietnam National Ageing Survey, 93% of older persons in rural areas and 97% in urban areas have cell phones; and about 4 out of 10 old persons have smartphones.

In this context, the development and launch of the “S-Health” app fit perfectly to provide healthcare information and services for older persons, their care givers and family members, and keeping older people socially connected.

Yesterday, I had the honour to virtually meet the students of 54 vocational education and training institutions from 32 provinces and cities who are the authors of 200 innovative projects using digital technologies to support older persons and persons with disabilities. They are the entries to the national Start-up KITES competition, themed “Startup Innovation in Industry 4.0 for Older People and People with Disability”. With the fund from the Government of Japan, UNFPA is very happy to provide technical support to the competition which explores the youth potential and further provides support for older people in the digital era.

 

We believe that together with the S-Health app, many more innovations with digital technologies will be developed, thus offering a great hope for accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in Vietnam. UNFPA commits to continuing its support to the development and application of digital technologies to protect the most vulnerable population groups, including women and girls, young and older persons.

 

Thank you for your attention and participation.