Headlines > News > United Nations Holds Workshop on Tele-Health Development in Asia and the Pacific

United Nations Holds Workshop on Tele-Health Development in Asia and the Pacific

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Fri Dec 2, 2005 6:28 pm
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Press Release, VIENNA, 1 December (UN Information Service) — The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), within the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, will hold a five-day Workshop on Tele-health Development in Asia and the Pacific Region. The Workshop is being organized in cooperation with the Government of China and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The Workshop is being co-sponsored and hosted by the China National Space Administration, the Ministry of Health of China and the Asia Pacific Multilateral Cooperation in Space Technology and Applications (AP-MCSTA), and will be held in Guangzhou, China, from 5 to 9 December.

The main objectives of this Workshop are to exchange information on the current status of tele-health practices in Asia and the Pacific and to discuss issues, concerns and approaches in developing tele-health for the region with a view to establishing a network and stimulating the development of a plan of implementation. Discussion on tele-health applications will include the use of space-based technologies to provide medical services, as well as health education for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. The following topics will also be included in the programme of the Workshop: medical consultations and specialist referrals; tele-surgery; off-site radiology services; cardiac monitoring; correctional care and tele-education in medicine; as well as preventative and therapeutic education and landscape epidemiology.

Tele-Health/Telemedicine

A major topic to be addressed by the Workshop is the provision of tele-health/telemedicine services through the use of state-of-the-art space technology. Tele-health/telemedicine consists of computer and telecommunications technologies, including satellite communications, to bring medical experts into virtual contact with patients in remote and rural areas, thus avoiding a costly relocation to hospitals in urban centres, which could prove detrimental to the patients’ health.

Currently, the most important applications of mobile telemedicine have been in ambulances and on ships. All of these locations can involve medical situations where time is critical, so speed of diagnosis is the primary reason to monitor the vital signs of patients and provide forewarning of treatment requirements to the hospital by satellite.

In the area of tele-health/telemedicine, the Workshop will address: (i) satellite-based TV and radio broadcasting, which is an inexpensive platform for delivering health care education to distant locations; (ii) satellite-based communications, which are the most promising means for reaching underserved and isolated areas all around the world; (iii) satellite-based delivery in emergency situations; (iv) satellite-based services for mobile objects at sea, in the air and on land; and (v) hybrid satellite/terrestrial delivery platforms, which are currently cost-effective solutions to many point-to-point and point-to-multipoint applications.

Landscape Epidemiology

Despite the advances of modern medicine, diseases like malaria, dengue fever and even the plague still afflict millions of people each year, crippling some while proving fatal to others. Many of the diseases are spread through mosquitoes, which can cause widespread epidemics by infecting people or animals, and then flying to another target. Malaria alone infects up to 500 million persons each year, killing at least a million. Advances in satellite remote sensing, global positioning and geographic information systems, as well as computer processing, now make it easier to integrate ecological, environmental and other data, to develop predictive models that can be used in disease surveillance and control activities. However, the capabilities of remote sensing technology have not been fully disseminated to the health investigators and agencies that could be using them. Landscape epidemiology, HIV/AIDS and vector-borne diseases will be among the issues to be addressed by the Workshop.

Landscape epidemiology is a relatively new interdisciplinary approach that involves the characterization of eco-geographical areas where diseases develop. It can be understood as part of a second generation application of remotely sensed data where the target cannot be seen directly with satellite images. This is a holistic approach that takes into account the relationships and interactions between the different elements of ecosystems, under the assumption that the biological dynamics of both host and vector population are driven by landscape elements such as temperature and vegetation.

Approximately 60 participants from the following countries and international organizations are expected to attend the workshop: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, United States, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, AP-MCSTA and OOSA.

The United Nations Programme on Space Applications is implemented by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and works to improve the use of space science and technology for the economic and social development of all nations, in particular developing countries. Under the Programme, the Office conducts training courses, workshops, seminars and other activities on applications and capacity building in subjects such as remote sensing, communications, satellite meteorology, search and rescue, basic space science, satellite navigation and space law.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science and technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at http://www.unoosa.org/ .

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