WHO Kobe Centre New Research Forum

April 7 is World Health Day. Each year, the WHO chooses a theme relating to health to raise awareness across the world. This year’s theme is Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The WHO Kobe Centre held the HAT Kobe Health Fair jointly with Kobe City for World Health Day and the 20th anniversary of KOBE Biomedical Innovation Cluster. The forum introduced new research from the WHO Kobe Centre.

Dr. Fumihiro Tajima, Professor at the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Wakayama Medical University, gave a lecture on the topic “Science about how to manage hospitalizations so as not to bedridden.” He explained that, “Astronauts in outer space cannot move for three weeks and, when they return to Earth, they cannot stand on their own. As this is the case for astronauts with young, strong bodies, it applies even more to the elderly. Movement is important. Even if a person is hospitalized temporarily, they should not be resting and confined to bed. In Wakayama Medical University Hospital, we have people stand on their own feet and walk the day after an operation. If they are bedridden, they gradually lose the ability to move. In this new research, hospitalized patients are wearing measuring devices with sensors that are similar to adhesive skin patches, and we are measuring their activity levels and developing a method for the optimum movement for people while they are in hospital.”

Dr. Ryuichi Saura, the Director and Professor of the Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Comprehensive Medicine, Osaka Medical College, gave a talk on “Research and perspectives about assistive technology in an aging society.” “In an age when many people are living to 100, it is important that we extend healthy life expectancy. As we age, the number of falls increases. Support and long term nursing care can be triggered by a fall. In other words, it is better if we do not fall. Current research is considering whether we can predict a fall. What are the risks of falling? What are the triggers when people do fall? The balance of our bodies? Changes in our walking speed or center of gravity? We asked 50 healthy people aged 65 and over to wear a device that records their movements, and are recording their everyday actions, considering postures and activities that have high risks of falls.”

Dr. Akira Kido, Professor and Director of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine in Nara Medical University Hospital, gave a lecture on the theme of “measurement of rehabilitation effect of older persons.” “People’s movements in their everyday lives vary depending on the person. By having someone wear an accelerometer and measuring these movements, we understand that there are temporal characteristics, and that there are differences in the acceleration and density of movements depending on the person. In this research we consider effective rehabilitation. The outcome of rehabilitation is affected by the amount of daily movement. Although we use the single word ‘rehabilitation,’ there are times that we can move immediately after an operation and times when we cannot, depending on the disease. In this research, we split disease into six categories, including macro cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, respiratory, and cancerous, and study the effect different kinds of activities have on rehabilitation and recovery from the different disease of patients who have been hospitalized. We are also measuring movements after patients have returned home, using smartphones, and carrying out follow-ups.”

Dr. Yoji Nagai, a Professor at the Clinical & Translational Research Center at Kobe University, gave a talk on the topic of the “Kobe Dementia Project: devising new strategies to strengthen health systems.” “As our society ages, dementia increases. I believe that, even if a person has developed dementia, it is important to prevent long term care. In this research, we are studying the relationship between cognitive function at certain points in time and the risk of future long term care, using a simple questionnaire that anyone can answer easily, with around 80,000 elderly residents of Kobe City as the subjects. This is a three-year project composed of four research projects, and already, since the start of this research in August last year, the forwarding and return of questionnaires and an intervention program targeting high-risk persons are progressing. With the full cooperation of Kobe City, we have separated all the data from the personal information, and are analyzing it.”

Dr. Aiko Yamamoto, Professor, Research Institute of Nursing Care for People and Community in the University of Hyogo, gave a lecture on the topic of the “Development of Specific Care Strategies to Maintain and Recover Survivors’ Health after Disasters.” “Large-scale disasters are increasing worldwide. Recently, in 2016 in Japan, the Kumamoto Earthquake and the Central Tottori earthquake occurred; we need to be prepared for disasters. It is difficult for older people to evacuate, and, depending on the disaster, chronic disease can worsen, and they cannot receive treatment from their family doctor. In this research we are investigating the needs of older people who require long term care when a disaster strikes. In addition, personnel in the affected area, who are required to continue with their work while they themselves are also victims, feel a lack of motivation, physical fatigue, confusion, and pain. In this research, we are studying the psychological care of the medical staff and public administration workers in the disaster-stricken area by implementing a program to prevent PTSD and depression, and carrying out evaluations.”