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Singapore Health Initiative Shows Thinking Beyond The Pandemic

What’s happening? The Singaporean government has partnered with Apple for a two-year health initiative where citizens will be paid to track health activity using an app and Apple Watch. The LumiHealth programme is voluntary, but residents can earn up to SGD380 ($275) in rewards over two-years by completing its goals. LumiHealth also provides personalised coaching, health screening reminders and wellness challenges. User privacy and security are placed at the programme’s core, said Apple. Singapore was among the first to introduce a contact-tracing app for Covid-19 and has since implemented a token system to allow larger gatherings to take place safely.
 
Why does this matter? Singapore’s programme marks the first of its kind and reflects a (possibly pandemic-triggered) resurge in a previous trend of wearable health trackers. Amazon’s latest smart tracker ­– Halo – launched last month.
 
Forming part of the country’s Smart Nation initiative, LumiHealth provides an example of governments utilising privately developed health care technology and a growing recognition of the wider benefits to keeping populations healthy.
 
We can draw a parallel here to Fitbit’s partnership with Singapore’s Health Promotion Board last year, after it was contracted to supply activity trackers under the “Live Health SG” health programme. Users of Fitbit’s programme, however, were required to pay for a subscription, a contrast to LumiHealth’s financial rewards gained by participating citizens.
 
The cost to Singapore authorities of incentivising fitness presumably outweighs the expense it would suffer if a greater proportion of its population required hospitalisation during the Covid-19 pandemic or future virus outbreak. In this light, it perhaps shows the island nation looking beyond the current crisis, seeking to improve overall health in the medium term.
 
Singapore has been seen as a frontrunner in its response to the pandemic and has placed significant emphasis on using technology to curb local spreading. It was one of the first to release a contact-tracing app – TraceTogether – in March. It has followed this up with contact-tracing tokens, serving as hardware version of the app.
 
Lateral thought from Curation – A rollout of LumiHealth’s scale inevitably raises concerns over user privacy, echoing similar concerns over contact-tracing data collection. There is also the question of whether the use of financial incentives is merely to compensate residents for handing over personal data.
 
Making data accessible to local authorities, however, could enable better and greener city planning, seen in the case of fitness tracker Strava, which recorded a boom in active travel in London during the pandemic and shared this with local authorities to allow them to improve routes in popular areas.

Nick Finegold is Founder & CEO of Curation Corp, an emerging and peripheral risks monitoring service.


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