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App to tackle obesity now in Kenya

By Jeckonia Otieno | February 22nd 2017
Jun Fukuyoshi CEO,Cancer Scan Co LTD during the launch of a Japanese App to tackle Obesity in Kenya on 27th January 2017. [PHOTO:WILBERFORCE OKWIRI/Standard]

Imagine a personal assistant who reminds you of your weight, cautions you on what to eat, and is on your smart phone.

This would be a dream come true for many, especially Kenyan women. The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey found that one in every two women in Kenya is obese or overweight with Nairobi and Kirinyaga leading the pack.

However, a new app that is being used by community health volunteers (CHVs) seeks to change this trend and revolutionise how Kenyans deal with weight issues.

Welcoming its use, Gladys Mugambi Head of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Ministry of Health, agreed that weight problems are rampant in Kenya.

Dubbed Simway, the app is based on the most updated theories of weight management. Its origins are in Japan.

One of the ways the app works is by detecting behaviour change which is transformed into a daily routine practice.

Borrowing heavily from the Japanese concept of Hoken-shi san (loosely translated as community health workers), the technology seeks more of a door-to-do approach in tackling obesity.

After World War II, Japan experienced public health development due to the engagement of this team of health workers who moved from door to door educating households throughout the country.

Today, Japan has about 30,000 Hoken-shi san working mainly with municipal authorities.

In pointing the population towards weight management, the app does three main things: Offers personalised simulation, sets calories reduction goals and allows self-monitoring.

According to Kasumi Ssawada, Managing Director - AfriScan whose mother company Cancer Scan developed the app, Simway assesses the risk which the client might have.

“Once the risk is determined, the app then calculates accurate energy consumption and intake before proposing a fully personalised weight management plan. It then sets up a daily calorie reduction goal which helps you know how much weight you will lose in day,” Ssawada says.

After the daily calorie goal has been set, the app helps in choosing the daily dieting behaviour that will help in achieving the set calorie goals. It targets one or a couple of behaviours.

Self-monitoring is a key aspect of this technology since clients are able to assess themselves and see whether they are making any improvements or not.

Since not every individual can afford the devices needed to run the app, the programme involves use of CHVs in order to reach as many people as possible.

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