Standards for Safer, Healthier ASEAN communities

Standards have made life easier for people. Just like getting on the weighing scale, we learn how much weight we need to put on or to reduce to be considered healthy.

In the Philippines, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is the sole authority on standards. DOST, particularly its Metrology Laboratories, is the place to go for companies to validate their machines, equipment, facilities in terms of accuracy, precision, reliability, and traceability. Companies with equipment up to standards will produce quality products which put them ahead in terms of trust and confidence of their clients.

In ASEAN, the Philippines is currently taking the lead in a project to establish scientific standards with the aim of helping to integrate the region’s socio-economic activities . Common standards will improve technology transfer, collaboration, and mutual trust among ASEAN countries.

Very soon, the following products – automotive, cosmetics, electrical and electronics, medical devices, pharmaceutical, prepared foodstuffs, rubber-based products, traditional medicine and health supplements, and wood-based products – will have harmonized standards in ASEAN, facilitating their smooth integration in the ASEAN market.

Many more products will be put in the pipeline for standards harmonization. Currently, the Philippines is considering the addition of two new product working groups for ASEAN in disaster mitigation and telehealth. ASEAN is a region at risk of natural disasters and disease emergence and transmission.

Automated Weather Stations (AWS) and Automated Rain Gauges (ARG) are devices which are placed in remote and sometimes harsh environments.  They save human labor by automatically recording weather-related information. The data collected by these instruments enable meteorologists to study, analyze, and forecast weather conditions.

Philippine experts believe that harmonizing disaster mitigation standards will alleviate the adverse impacts of calamities by promoting regional cooperation and capacity building in disaster preparedness. To this end, the Philippine government is recommending the adoption of the “Guide to Meteorological Instruments and Methods of Observation” of the World Meteorological Organization’s Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation (CIMO). CIMO’s guidelines cover hardware, data acquisition, data transmission and peripheral equipment such as power supplies, real time clock, and built in test equipment. These guidelines, plus experiential observations, will boost the AWS capabilities.

One of the several new automated rain gauges was installed recently in Davao City, in the southern area of Mindanao in the Philippines, which had been affected by severe floods in the last three years. Dr. Anthony C. Sales (left), DOST-XI regional director, said that the ARG will greatly help in flood forecasting in the region. (Photo by Henry A. de Leon, DOST-STII)
One of the several new automated rain gauges was installed recently in Davao City, in the southern area of Mindanao in the Philippines, which had been affected by severe floods in the last three years. Dr. Anthony C. Sales (left), DOST-XI regional director, said that the ARG will greatly help in flo

Meanwhile, Philippine experts in electronics research and meteorology are collaborating to establish national standards in both AWS and ARG. This is important because these devices are critical in the operation of Project NOAH, or Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (http://noah.dost.gov.ph/).

A project of the DOST, NOAH is an Internet-based early warning tool with several components designed to generate information that will help maximize efforts in preventing disasters such as floods and typhoons. The AWS and ARG send data which local experts process to assess the site-specific probabilities of rain, typhoon, or flooding. These data, fed into the Project NOAH website, are shared with local governments and serve as their baseline for implementing safety procedures in their own communities.

In addition to disaster mitigation, the Philippines is leading standards harmonization in telehealth to ensure ASEAN communities, especially those in remote, hard to reach locations receive appropriate and quality health care.

Telehealth devices can remotely measure a patient’s vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, pulse rate, oxygenation, and other parameters. Through telehealth devices, medical or health workers transmit vital signs via the Internet and phone lines to enable a medical specialist who is in another different location make diagnoses and prescribe treatments.

Moreover, telehealth technology enables experts, medical practitioners, and patients from different parts of the world to communicate with each other. This greatly increases the chances of improving the health and saving lives of people who otherwise would not receive medical attention.

Experts will develop new systems, services, and products that will bring medical expertise and assistance to the underserved. Latest developments in telehealth have integrated the electronic medical record system, or the Community Health Information Tracking System, as well as modules for maternal and fetal/neonatal monitoring, which broaden the medical specialties where telehealth can be applied.

Data from the maternal-fetal monitor (left) is fed into the RxBox, a locally-developed tool that stores patient information and is part of DOST’s program on telehealth. Right: DOST Secretary Mario Montejo (second from right) and Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona (third from left) take note of the RxBox functionalities as demonstrated by developers who are experts from the DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute. (Photos by Framelia V. Anonas)
Data from the maternal-fetal monitor (left) is fed into the RxBox, a locally-developed tool that stores patient information and is part of DOST’s program on telehealth. Right: DOST Secretary Mario Montejo (second from right) and Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona (third from left) take note

This month, standards for telehealth devices in the Philippines will be set by a technical committee  through the Center for Device Regulation, Radiation Health and Research of the Philippine Food and Drugs Administration. These standards will serve as benchmarks in harmonizing technologies, products, and services on telehealth in ASEAN.

When established, standards for telehealth will also help experts monitor and manage diseases better in ASEAN.  As ASEAN prepares for integration by 2015, establishing standards such as these will not only lead to a more vibrant market but also to communities that  are safer and healthier.

 

 

About the AuthorFramelia Viernes Anonas (http://www.facebook.com/framelia.v.anonas) is a Senior Science Research Specialist at the Science and Technology Information Institute, the information and promotion arm of the Philippine Department of Science and Technology. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the S&T Post, a quarterly magazine written in popular language that features S&T developments in the Philippines, and DOST Digest, a monthly publication of S&T news intended for policymakers and stakeholders of DOST. She also administers the STII Facebook account (https://www.facebook.com/dost.stii) where news, photos, and videos on DOST and other related S&T developments are posted and shared. She likewise manages the news content of the DOST and STII websites (http://www.dost.gov.ph/,  http://www.stii.dost.gov.ph/)