GM Ecosystem Active & Healthy Ageing Meeting

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The first meeting of 2017 for the Manchester Connected Health Ecosystem took place on the 19th January at MSP Citylabs. Focussing on the topic of Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA) in Greater Manchester, the meeting was attended by over 60 participants from across academia, local government, industry and the NHS.

Dr Mike Burrows, Director of the Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network (GMAHSN) got us under way by outlining the vision for obtaining 4 star EU Reference Site status following the recent award of 3 star status in Brussels last year. Mike’s talk looked at the ways in which Greater Manchester could learn from other European Innovation Partnership (EIP) AHA sites, as well as other EIP theme areas such as Smart Cities and Communities. He also spoke about how GM can deal with the pressure of an ageing demography and how the City Region can make sure people enjoy longer, healthier lives through partners developing better prevention, screening & early diagnosis tools; improving care & cure facilities and technologies, and encouraging and promoting active ageing & independent living

Finally Mike touched upon the need for the NHS to speed up the adoption process of new technology into routine clinical practice, citing the NHS constitution and the commitment to a system "operating at the cutting edge of science".

Next up was Brian O’Connor, Director of the ECHAlliance, who spoke about the need for collaboration between academia, government and industry, and how this guiding principle resulted in the foundation of the ECHAlliance, driving the growth of Ecosystem networks across Europe and beyond. Brian also spoke about the growth of the Chinese Connected Health Alliance, and the opportunities to engage with this growing and innovation friendly market.

"China is desperate to adopt western best practices rather than create them themselves"

Paul McGarry, Manchester City Council’s strategic lead for Age Friendly Manchester & the GM Ageing Hub spoke about the need to improve the prosperity of older residents in GM so that they can lead a better quality of life and also contribute to the economy. Paul also showed work by the OECD, WHO & from other cities to show that ageing demographics are not just a Manchester issue, and that by working with WHO, GM will be able to work towards a more prosperous area for elderly residents.

"Our vision is for older residents in Greater Manchester to be able to contribute to and benefit from sustained prosperity and enjoy a good quality of life."

The attendees then broke out into discussions around what opportunities there were in Active & Healthy Ageing and how the Ecosystem could support and promote them. One of the main themes to come out of this was how "prevention is key". Rather than being a reactive NHS, it must be proactive. Another important point to come from the discussions was the need for businesses to understand demand in order to supply the product. This would also allow products to be better designed. Information sharing was also seen as a key area, with data being made more accessible.

"What is the availability of technology in people’s homes? This is essential to make people feel connected."

After the discussion feedback, Professor Josie Tetley and Dr Emma-Reeta Koivunen from Manchester Metropolitan University presented on 'Using technology to reduce social isolation'. The research into social isolation was on dementia and strokes rehabilitation using haptics. For dementia the innovative solution was to use wearable technology and to introduce it early after diagnosis rather than being reactive in the treatment. Using the app, carers can be alerted when the wearer goes off route. In order to decrease social isolation in stroke sufferers, small and unobtrusive haptic bracelets were being used to help increase mobility.

"I want one of these!" (Female carer using the wearable)

Dr Helen Hawley-Hague then presented on 'Falls detection and prevention using smartphone technology'. Highlighting that falls are a big & important problem, she presented evidence that  falls can be prevented from happening through various interventions, ultimately meaning less pressure on the NHS, and people living healthier, longer lives. The app that has been developed and tested in Norway and Italy, as part of the FARSEEING EC FP7 project, allows the user to report back whether they are okay or need assistance. This will mean fewer false alarms, a quicker response time and a better understanding of what happens just before someone falls.

"Soon everyone will have a smartphone! 50% of people aged 55-64 now have one; this has more than doubled since 2012"

There then followed a presentation via video from Andy Bleaden, European Project Funding Manager from Stockport MBC, on the innovative way in which they have accessed EU funding streams and industry partner skills, knowledge, and expertise, to develop assistance robots in the home.

Thanks to everyone who was able to attend. Our April meeting has been replaced by Informatics for Health 2017, taking place in Manchester on 24th-26th April. Further details on how to register are available online at http://informaticsforhealth.org/