Disease Patterns and Demographics Affecting Asia

Pharma IQ

Asia's vast size, socioeconomic disparities and rapidly changing demographics continually present new challenges to healthcare providers.

Ageing populations within China and Japan mean the need for strong focus on care for diseases, such as diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, traditionally related with elderly populations.

Other regions are dealing with rapid urbanisation, with the number of urban residents increasing by 60 million people per year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

From the pressure on services to conditions arising from population and the swift ability of diseases to spread in confined urban areas, this represents its own challenges for healthcare.

Asia has also bore the brunt of new viruses with pandemic potential in recent years. The WHO recently reported a case of H5N1, more commonly known as bird flu, in Hong Kong- the first time a case has been reported in 2003.

Meanwhile, central Asia is currently dealing with new outbreaks of Polio, following a case which began in Tajikistan and has now spread to Russian Federation, Turkmenistan and possibly Uzbekistan.

All these serve to demonstrate the vast array of health issues likely to affect the healthcare market in Asia in the coming years.

Changing populations

The aging populations of a number of Asian countries have raised fears that the region is ill prepared to deal with a large increase in the number of patients suffering from conditions, such as diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

Research conducted by Alzheimer's Disease International found that the number of global Alzheimer's patients is expected to double to around 70 million by the year 2030 and half of these are likely to be located in Asia.

China is expected to house around 27 million sufferers by 2050, while India will have 16 million, which will place significant pressure on both countries' healthcare systems.

Dr. David Dai, coordinator of the Hong Kong Alzheimer's Disease Association, told Reuters: "Asia will bear the burden because of the aging population in China ... We are not prepared. The whole of southeast Asia is not prepared."

Figures reported in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year also suggest that China could have a greater number of diabetes suffers than previously expected.

As many in one in ten citizens could have the condition. These high figures are thought not only to be caused by an ageing population, but also the urbanisation and rapid economic growth which have caused changes in diet and a more sedentary lifestyle.

This represents a potentially large public health problem, as diabetes is linked to heart disease, kidney disease and strokes.