Khun Tarisa Watanagase, the former Governor of The Bank of Thailand, provides a fascinating article on the issues of an ageing society in Thailand that are relevant for UK too:
Particularly, on the need for emerging markets to adapt quickly or be skewered on the horns of a dilemma with both an ageing population and an initial delay in increased automation and universal healthcare and insurance.
In UK, telegrams from the Queen to those UK citizens reaching their 100th birthday increased by 70% in a decade and 5% in one year, and the over 75 population is forecast to double in the next decade. Indeed the Queen herself is over 90 and could soon receive a telegram from herself. Dementia could make it a surprise too. While any UK child born today can easily expect to live to over 100 years old.
South Korean women are already exceeding 90 years old on average, almost 10 years more than UK women. While both Italy and Japan are faced with the problem of declining and ageing populations.
There are only 5 main factors currently reducing UK lifespans:
* air pollution is a national crisis especially in London with repeated breaches of EU safety levels and urgent moves to electric vehicles needed
* weak care for under-5 years old children and under 12 months: both Sweden and Japan have double the life expectancy rates than UK
* weak social care - as the Xmas NHS crisis showed with a lack of emergency beds and increase in elderly Winter deaths
* HFSS foods: high fat, salt and sugar foods as well as Tobacco and Alcohol
* Pandemic research: not just Flu or TB, with London as the TB capital of Europe or even BirdFlu but also Cancers and AMR and DNA research is far weaker in UK than it should be.
And there are subtler problems, the UK is as of this month being urged to take up a 10 a day fruit and veg diet - as highlighted in Canada and Japan off some years now - over the previous 5 a day advice, and new warning on red meat as carcinogenic.
Even the horrifying NHS Surgery failure rate with over 12,000 deaths from surgery on the wrong patient(!) or body part(!). Indeed the UN WHO details 1M global deaths from botched surgery, and 7M people left disabled - all preventable.
Surgery advances have proved a heartwarming success story in Thailand with Nong Sai recovering from the school mug incident.
And as Khun Tarisa eloquently points out, innovations in basic materials such as bathroom tiles could reduce injuries to the elderly. Slips and Trips are one of the highest NHS categories for elderly injuries and deaths and the call for new super-materials such as graphene for hip and knee replacements as well as cataract advances. Especially with over half the global 40M blind people capable of having their sight restored.
Thailand is poised on the brink of a tsunami of Western diseases as its society ages and diets change to fast food etc. The Economist this week highlights a 40kg annual increase per person in wheat sales in Thailand - the proverbial coffee and Danish pastry or 7-11 wheat noodles.
##Education and Health reform##
And Khun Tarisa makes a fascinating point on the Education Ministry issue of 50% of Thailand's 30,000 public schools having fewer than 120 pupils. A side issue of consolidation would be a rise in obesity with longer school commutes and reduction in walking to a local school.
Here in Kent, schools have been active in not just 20mph zone so reduce traffic deaths, but also a Walking Bus system so children walk to school, cars on the school run being parked further away from the school gates to reduce traffic fumes and a No Smoking policy (for parents!) at the school gates.
While the sell-off of school playing fields has proved problematic in UK in encouraging sports to piggy-back on the Sporting Superpower success of UK in recent years.
As a founder of the Surin School Charity to build schools in Isaan and ASEAN, the gains in efficiencies in closing rural schools may not be matched by the opportunity to provide excellent school facilities.
The original Surin School was essentially a dilapidated 60 year old wooden shed - and low morale from both teachers and parents was reversed with state of the art facilities. Including internet satellite, computers, internet and a school library and sports equipment with support from the public and Ellington School, in Ramsgate has turned the school around.
Only a few more pieces of sports equipment and musical instruments, and minibus and swimming pool are required to demonstrate the success of the Surin Charity school-in-a-box template. Frankly I'm astonished UK's DFID hasn't been trumpeting the success of the programme for roll-out.
And as Thailand moves to an HFSS policy with a 20% sugar tax (8% in UK from next year) to improve longevity by removing white sugar (and white flour and white rice?) from diets.
Here in Kent, an ageing society is becoming an axiom with the movie The Carer filmed here starring Brian Cox, and former Bond Roger Moore, as a looked-after pensioner.
While Kent NHS is providing nursing courses for DaNang nurses at CCU university in Canterbury and looking at recruiting an extra 120 Filipino nurses this year to help stem the problems in the NHS.
I certainly wouldn't suggest that the Philippines or Thailand's healthcare systems should be plundered for nurses and doctors and carers, but in urging an increase from 8,000 to 20,000 (similar to Malaysia) Thai students in UK, sensible consideration should be given to such new medical courses for a year or two in UK? Even as part of a new Medical School in Canterbury?
Along with English language learning (a strategic imperative for Thailand within ASEAN, as well as improving existing government policy), affiliation to a UK hospital for a further 2 years before returning as alumni to Bohol or Buriram or Sittwe and Surin could be a huge positive development.
Discovery Park the Pfizer site that was the largest USA inward investment site in Europe, along with nearby Sittingbourne Science Park and the 4 East Kent universities would also be ideal for TRF and TDRI and True Mobile STEM work for the younger generations.
With True Tech Park for example, or Microsoft that supports much of the Kent public sector, why shouldn't the Yingluck dream of a computer and smartphone for every child also be delivered for every Silver Surfer pensioner?
Manufacturing an extra 30M or so computers and phones each year for UK and Thai kids and pensioners is hardly complex or expensive.
Thailand and UK should be cooperating on pandemic research with Kent companies such as Venomtech and expanding malaria coverage in India as well as dengue in ASEAN along with new factories for dynamic companies such as Denmark’s Vestergaard:
Wouldn’t Thailand and UK and India shaking their walking stick together at the ADB and AIIB reduce such deaths faster? And both UK and Thailand could forge ahead and reel in a major boost in all their manufacturing capacity.
And innovations by companies such as Panasonic or Philips such as a DNA Bathroom Mirror to measure blood pressure and respiration etc would be a key factor for improved Home-Healthcare Industries and reduce the pressure on hospitals and doctor's surgeries.
##Left is Life and 50 Shades of Grey Tourism##
I've also urged the Left is Life programme for police safety, and improved blood and organ donations as well as extending paramedic training. Shouldn't the UK and Thai ambulance services be working together on training and equipment even Red Cross and RNLI air ambulance helicopters and boats?
UK and Japan are cooperating on a version of the Eurocopter cargo/medical helicopter, so why shouldn't Thailand and ASEAN be a part of that Resilience and economic activity?
While Thailand has much to offer UK in its innovative Children's Day and Teacher's Day programmes, and so why not a societal shift with Nurses Day? In my politics role as KCC Leader I'll be urging such reforms along with Spanish Armada Day and #BOM Dutch Day.
Hungary has only 440,000 UK tourists yet 50,000 of those are for medical tourism such as dental treatment. Yet Kent already has dusty links with Bacs-Kiskun region in Hungary, and similar measures could be put in place with Thailand to develop Medical Tourism for both the UK and Indian markets.
As well as with Sports Science Tourism that Khun Kobarn Thailand's dynamic tourism minister has already raised - and Grey Tourism such as cycling in Nan with your nana as part of the 12 Stars programme.
Would it be so outrageously impossible for every one of the UK's 130 universities to have both a Cancer research and AMR and EU Rare Diseases dept - rather than the fripperies of Beckham Studies courses - as well as links to a Thai university and Rajabhat and hospital?
As a much larger nation and more rural than UK, ambulances could even be forward-positioned in Thailand's rural areas as clinics and hospitals on wheels. Better that than an hour or two's bumpy drive in the back of a pickup truck after a car crash or heart attack?
And it's a massive failure that UK NHS doesn't have formal alumni programmes with African and Caribbean and Asian nurses and hospitals.
Surely Khun Tarisa should be urging both UK and Thailand to pop in their dentures and take a bite out of a common policy on ageing societies?