WKC Forum report “Role of Assistive Technology in Rapid Ageing in Asia and the World”

Assistive Technologies are an important support for ageing populations in Asia and the rest of the world. They allow disabled and non-disabled ageing people to engage in activities that are meaningful or simply necessary for them to stay healthy and socially included.

The WHO Centre for Health Development (WKC) in cooperation with i-CREATe 2017, and the 32th Japanese Conference on the Advancement of Assistive and Rehabilitation Technology in KOBE, organized a WKC Forum on the Role of Assistive Technology in Rapid Ageing in Asia and the World, on Thursday, 24 August 2017 at the Kobe International Conference Center. Dr Takaaki Chin, the General Chair of the 11th International Convention on Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology (i-CREATe 2017). Introduced Dr Sarah Louise Barber, Director of WHO Kobe Centre for opening remarks for welcoming the 200 participants in the WKC Forum.

The keynote by Mr Henrik Hjorth from Creative Impact (Denmark), highlighted the challenges brought by ageing societies in supporting ageing in place by providing various types of robotic assistive technologies. Like in Japan, in Denmark, local governments are providing long-term care services and support and face increasing demands for quality solutions, with finite resources. Local governments developed a national knowledge repository to exchange experience about ongoing and past projects, with a focus on mature technologies to support older people at home.

Ageing in place policies require human and technological support, and the balance between the use and deployment of these two forms of support can be characterised by people’s wishes to be taken care of by humans, and local government favouring a mix of human and robotic care to reduce costs and compensate for the lack of workforce to deliver quality long-term care support to older adults. At the heart of these choices are the questions of dignity and autonomy of older people. Several examples of companies developing robotic devices and human-based services were used as examples of the complementarity of these approaches. In conclusion, Mr Hjorth emphasized the need to engage older people (to allow for the co-creation of care models) and to pay attention not only to the financial side, but also to quality of life as an important parameter of policy choice.

The keynote was followed by three presentations on the importance of and examples of the use of assistive technologies for disabled people, as they can serve as a blueprint for how these technologies can be developed, adapted and co-designed with their user to meet the needs of ageing populations.

Ms Masako Okuhira from the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD) shared her experience of going beyond stigma and low self-esteem, to accepting her own condition. This resonates with how older adults sometimes face, confront and react towards ageism.

Mr Hiroyuki Shinoda from the SAKURA Wheelchair Project, and Mr Kazushi Matsumoto from the Asian Seating Assistance Project (ASAP) highlighted the specific challenges of North-South collaboration to support users of wheelchairs and explore the limits of classic donation of assistive technologies versus the benefits of embedding technical assistance to meet the needs of users.

The WKC Forum was conducted in English with simultaneous Japanese and Sign Language interpretation.





Forum flyer

WKC Forum “Role of Assistive Technology in Rapid Ageing in Asia and the World”

The WHO Centre for Health Development (WHO Kobe Centre) is organizing an open public Forum “Role of Assistive Technology in Rapid Ageing in Asia and the World” on 24 August, 2017 at the Kobe International Conference Center.

The 11th International Convention on Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology (i-CREATe 2017) to be held on August 22–24, 2017 in Kobe. The i-CREATe will be featuring innovative technology, equipment, applications, techniques and materials applied in the field of Assistive & Rehabilitative Technology. It is also a stage for technical exchanges to share ideas and best practices in the disabilities field from across the countries.

Taking this great opportunity, WKC will organize a half-day WKC forum and invites Mr Henrik Hjorth, Director, Creative Impact, Copenhagen, Denmark, as a keynote speaker. Mr Hjorth is currently Senior Consultant in several EU-funded projects and bilateral projects focusing on institutional building and related labour force awareness raising.

Free of charge. No registration necessary.

Role of Assistive Technology in Rapid Ageing in Asia and the World

Time:24 August, 2017 (13:00-15:00
Venue:Kobe International Conference Center 1F Main Hall
(〒650-0046 Minatojima Nakamachi 6-9-1 Chuo-ku Kobe TEL 078-302-5200)
Language:English–Japanese simultaneous interpretation available
Organized by:WHO Kobe Centre, i-CREATe2017, The 32th Japanese Conference on the Advancement of Assistive and Rehabilitation Technology in KOBE


13:00-13:05 Opening
Sarah Louise Barber, Director, WHO Kobe Centre

13:05-13:50 Lecture
“Assisted Living in a Danish Perspective – with special focus on the ageing population and related challenges”
Henrik Hjorth (Creative Impact, Denmark)

13:55-14:55 Reports by Practitioners: Support for Independent Living using Assistive Technology
"International cooperation to support independent living in Asia utilizing Assistive technologies"
● Masako Okuhira (Expert on International Relations, Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, Japan)
● Hiroyuki Shinoda (Lecturer on Seating Engineering, Sakura Wheelchair Project
● Kazushi Matsumoto (Executive Director, Asian Seating Assistance Project (ASAP), Japan)

14:55-15:00 Closing

Forum flyer (Japanese)


Research to accelerate Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in light of population ageing in ASEAN Countries

ASEAN Japan Health Ministers Meeting was held in Tokyo on 15 July, 2017, hosted and organized by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan in collaboration with WHO Centre for Health Development (WHO Kobe Centre) and ASEAN Secretariat. A joint statement was adopted at the end of the Meeting including support for ASEAN-Japan UHC Initiative.

The initiative outlines a role for WHO Kobe Centre for leading research on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Population Ageing among ASEAN countries. WHO Kobe Centre is therefore pleased to launch a new research program to enable continued ASEAN-Japan collaboration in its “Call for Letters-of-Intent (LOI) - Research to accelerate Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in light of population ageing in ASEAN Countries”. We welcome proposals from academia in ASEAN nations.

Submission deadline: 15 September 2017, 17:00 JST

Call for Letters-of-Intent (LOI) 

Meeting the health, welfare and social care needs of older people in low and middle income countries

This call for papers is jointly organised by the journal Health Policy and Planning and the WHO Kobe Centre for Health and Development (WKC), with the support of the WHO Health Workforce Department,the WHO Service Delivery Department, and the WHO Ageing and Life course Department. It is financially supported by the WHO Kobe Center. 

The title of the supplement is Meeting the health, welfare and social care needs of older people in low and middle income countries (LMICS) through innovations and enhanced human capital. 

Inviting empirical research on innovations in meeting the health, welfare and social needs of older populations in low and middle income countries, and relevant research from high-income countries that is transferable across settings (with use of technology as a particular cross-cutting theme).

Papers speaking to each of the sub themes listed below will be targeted.

  • The design, organisation, and financing of health and social care systems
  • Transformative strategies and investments for health and social workforce planning, education, skills and the creation of decent jobs
  • Innovations to empower older people in maintaining optimal functional ability

The supplement will have a maximum of 15 articles that cover the sub-themes (i.e. approximately 5 papers per sub theme). All papers will be subject to peer review. It is our aim that 75% of accepted papers will be led by authors from low- and middle-income countries. Selected authors will be invited to submit a full manuscript for peer-review. Accepted papers will be published as a special journal supplement in 2018. Full manuscripts should be submitted to Health Policy and Planning by 31 October 2017 through the submission link on the journal website.

During the submission process please note your paper is to be considered as part of a special issue.
Original research articles as well as review papers are invited

Read the full author instructions

Submit to the journal 

Please contact the editorial office if you have any further enquiries.

"Kobe Model" of Early Detection and Management for Dementia

WHO Kobe Centre and Kobe University announced that the research protocols of “An Implementation Research Study in Kobe Municipality, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, for Strategy Proposal to Reduce the Social Burden of Dementia” have been reviewed and approved by the WHO Research Ethics Review Committee and other local committees, and the research process will start on August 1.

Worldwide, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of people with some form of dementia. In 2012, more than 8 million people have cognitive problems in Japan, including over 4.5 million people with dementia and people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). This figure will increase with population ageing. Earlier identification of dementia enables health workers, communities and families to implement interventions that can slow the process of cognitive decline, and thus potentially delaying the transition to severe dementia.

WHO Kobe Centre is supporting Kobe University and key partners to conduct a three year project, with support by Kobe City, to conduct an analysis of health data of approximately 80000 Kobe citizens in their 70s, collected by Kobe municipality through its routine Kihon Checklist (KCL) survey. The researchers will further analyze high risk populations among the KCL survey respondents, of approximately 5000 people to measure cognitive function and quality of life. Analysis will also be undertaken of approximately 5000 Frailty Check-up participants to measure cognitive function and quality of life. Lastly, researchers will study the impact of an additional long-term cognitive training program for 100 participants of the “Brain Health Class” program administered by Kobe City last year. The results of the study will inform community based models and policy options for Kobe Municipality, national government and the international community.

“The outcome of the research is expected to contribute to concrete solutions to help improve the quality of life for persons living with dementia and their family members. The research will provide good evidence to the world about how to structure community-based care programmes for dementia,” said Dr Sarah Louise Barber, Director, WHO Kobe Centre.

“The results of this research project will hopefully create a robust “assessment-intervention-feedback” circle within Kobe City. The outcome of the research will be disseminated through academic journals to the world and is expected to contribute to public health policy options by showing a reasonable community model and the evidence behind it,” said Professor Yoji Nagai, lead researcher and Director, Clinical & Translational Research Center, Kobe University Hospital.

Kobe University (lead research institution):

    • Dr Yoji Nagai (principal investigator), Professor and Director, Clinical & Translational Research Center, Kobe University Hospital
    • Dr Hisatomo Kowa, Professor, Graduate School of Health Sciences, Kobe University
    • Dr Yasuji Yamamoto, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, Kobe University
    • Dr Shinsuke Kojima, Medical Science Group, Division of Medical Innovation, Translational Research Informatics Center
    • Dr Kiyoshi Maeda, Professor, School of Rehabilitation, Kobe Gakuin University
    • Dr Ryoma Kayano, Technical Officer, WHO Kobe Centre



Related Links 

New Project Featuring Japan’s Good Practice in Research-to-Action for Healthy Ageing

The World Health Organization Centre for Health Development (WHO Kobe Centre) and the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology (NCGG) are pleased to announce that they will commence a collaborative research project to advance universal health coverage (UHC) and healthy ageing in Japan.

Local governments in Japan are implementing a wide range of policies in response to rapid population ageing. While many studies gather scientific evidence that could inform such policies, less attention has been given to how best to apply research findings to government policies and practices.

A new collaborative study between the WHO Kobe Centre and the NCGG will feature a good practice in research-to-action for healthy ageing in Japan – the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES) initiative. JAGES continuously provides direct inputs to local and national decision-making bodies using evidence generated from a survey which has progressively scaled up since its inception in 1999 to include 200,000 older adults in 39 municipalities nationwide in 2016.

Specifically, the new project will:

  1. Describe the strategies employed by JAGES to collaborate with local governments to conduct large-scale surveys of older adults.
  2. Review the body of scientific evidence accumulated by JAGES and their implications for healthy ageing policies.
  3. Demonstrate effective methods for communicating research evidence to policy makers and practitioners, including the development and use of the JAGES Health Equity Assessment and Response Tool, which is a data visualization tool.
  4. Illustrate JAGES’ impact in diverse municipalities using the case examples of Kobe (Hyogo), Matsudo (Chiba) and Taketoyo (Aichi).

The lessons learned from the JAGES initiative will help other countries strengthen their own practices in data collection, research and knowledge translation toward improving health for all in ageing populations. The study results are scheduled to be published in May 2018 or later.

Dr. Sarah Louise Barber, the Director of WHO Kobe Centre, stated that “Japan, with its super-ageing society, is brimming with valuable lessons that the rest of the world can learn from. I am pleased that, through this study, we will be able to provide scientific evidence that will contribute to policies around the world to support healthy ageing.”
The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Katsunori Kondo, Head of the Department of Gerontological Evaluation at the Center for Gerontology and Social Science of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology (and Professor at the Center for Preventive Medical Sciences of Chiba University), stated that, “We have been working on creating models for social epidemiology research that facilitates policy formulation and implementation. I am very glad that we, in Japan, the society with the world’s longest healthy life expectancy, are able to make a contribution in this way to the rest of the world.”

Research Group members include:
National Centre for Gerontology and Geriatrics (lead research institution):

  • Dr Katsunori Kondo, lead researcher, Head, Department of Gerontological Evaluation, Center for Gerontology and Social Science, National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology and Professor of the Center for Preventive Medical Sciences, Chiba University
  • Dr Toshiyuki Ojima, Professor and Chair of Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine
  • Dr Naoki Kondo, Associate Professor, Social Epidemiology and Public Health/Chief of the Department of Health Education and Health Sociology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Tokyo
  • Dr Jun Aida, Associate Professor, Department of International and community oral health, Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry
  • Dr Masashige Saito, Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Welfare, Nihon Fukushi University
  • Dr Megumi Rosenberg, Technical Officer, WHO Kobe Centre

Related links

ASEAN-Japan Research Initiative UHC and Ageing

Welcoming delegates from 10 ASEAN countries to Yokohama, Kanagawa Governor, Mr Yuji Kuroiwa stated his strong commitment and support to innovative health care policy and international partnerships. “Our Prefectural Government is actively committed to implement its innovative Healthcare New Frontier policy, a bundle of healthcare and industrial policies based on the concept of Curing ME-BYO to advance Universal Health Coverage notably under conditions of population ageing,” Governor Kuroiwa stated.

The Policy Discussion in Yokohama City, Japan, took place from 17-18 July 2017, and focused on Leading Health Reforms in the 21st Century - Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Ageing and Health Systems. It was organized jointly by the WHO Kobe Center and Kanagawa Prefecture Government, with the support of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the ASEAN Secretariat. It was attended by senior government officials from all ASEAN Countries and immediately followed the ASEAN-Japan Health Ministers Meeting on Universal Health Coverage and Ageing Populations in Tokyo, 14-15 July 2017.

The first day was dedicated to technical updates from WHO and participating countries, and practice implementation and research issues related to the “Impact of Population Ageing for Achieving UHC.” During the second day, participants went on field visits to Kanagawa Prefecture’s Life Innovation Center in Kawasaki City and other health institutes in Kawasaki City’s Tonomachi International Strategic Zone. This was also an opportunity to see the almost finished construction of Kanagawa Prefectural Government’s future Medical Innovation School which will invite ASEAN health policy makers to participate in its future Master of Public Health (MPH) program.

“The World Health Organization’s Kobe Centre for Health Development was pleased to support and participate in the rich and constructive policy discussions at this meeting. We will follow up the discussions in developing a new research initiative for ASEAN countries on Universal Health Coverage and Population Ageing,” stated Dr Sarah Louise Barber, Director of the WHO Kobe Centre at the WHO Centre for Health Development at the conclusion of the meeting. The WHO Kobe Centre will launch a call for Letters-of-Intent (LoIs) for the new research initiative in early August.

Agenda and Programme Report

WKC Briefs


New WHO Kobe-Kanagawa Collaboration on UHC Leadership Programme

WHO Kobe Centre (WKC) announced today a joint collaboration with Kanagawa prefecture on a new collaboration towards a Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Leadership Programme. The organizations will jointly host and organize a “Policy Discussion Meeting on UHC and Population Ageing: Leading Health Reforms in the 21st Century for Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Ageing and Health Systems in ASEAN countries” on 17 and 18 July in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture.

UHC, Innovation and Ageing are three main pillars of the new WKC’s research strategies for the 3rd decade. In achieving UHC, more evidence, data, information and case models are needed, which could be adapted to inform future policy options at country level. Under the new research strategy, WKC strives to become a knowledge hub for UHC, Innovation and Ageing. To share the research outcome for future policy options, we agreed with Kanagawa Prefecture to provide the opportunity of face to face policy option dialogue among Asian countries. This meeting realizes this agreement.

Kanagawa Prefecture has the country’s fastest growing older population. It has also taken the lead in many technological and social innovations to support older people. From this year, WKC and Kanagawa Prefecture agreed to conduct the UHC Leadership capacity building programme.

The new programme, “Policy Discussion Meeting on UHC and Population Ageing: Leading Health Reforms in the 21st Century Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Ageing and Health Systems in ASEAN countries” will hold technical delegations among ASEAN countries. The technical focus of the discussions will be on mainly UHC and rapid ageing in the Asian region.

New WHO Kobe-Kanagawa Collaboration on UHC Leadership Programme

Date and time: 17-18 July 2017
Venue: Hotel Mielparque Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

Day 1: UHC governance and sustainability, Lunch Seminar "Technological Innovation", Keynote Speech “Me-Byo Concept and Health Care New Flonteir, Session II: Innovation for Health and Care Services for Ageing Populations, Session III: Summary and closing

Day 2:Site visit to integrated health service facilities in Kanagawa Prefecture

Request for proposals Review of service delivery models for older people that maximize quality of life

Health systems aim to reduce mortality and prolong life, which may not be appropriate for end-of-life care. During the last years of life, health needs are often interlinked with social needs. Thus, maintaining functional ability and improved quality of life become the most important goals.
WHO Kobe Centre invites proposals for a rapid review of service delivery models that are fit for older people at the end-of-life. This research will document and evaluate delivery models for quality of life and costs, and provide an analysis of knowledge gaps.
Submission deadline: 31 August 2017, 23:00 Japan time

Together for a healthier world Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

On 1 July 2017, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus begins his 5-year term as WHO’s new Director-General. Dr Tedros previously served as Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia and as Board Chair of the Global Fund and Roll Back Malaria Partnership. Dr Tedros plans to focus on five main areas of work during his tenure. They are: achieving universal health coverage; strengthening the capacity of national authorities and local communities to detect, prevent and manage health emergencies; improving the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents; addressing the health impacts of climate and environmental change; and building a transformed, transparent and accountable WHO.

WHO Director-General