How new technology can create a healthier public: Bridging Science and Policy

communication technologies

Our Mendeley Advisors are one of the groups continuing to participate in the global conversation launched by Atomium — The European Institute for Science, Media, and Democracy — on increasing collaboration and cooperation between policy makers, scientists and other people.

This week we are featuring an essay by Angelo Basteris, a postdoc at Griffith University in Australia, and a Mendeley Advisor, on this week’s topic: New Technologies and Innovation.

You can also participate in this conversation by filling out weekly questionnaires on chronic disease at the REISearch forums.


What would you do if you had a stroke? I’d be playing with my smartphone

Have you ever thought “What would I do if I had a stroke?”. I have, quite often. Perhaps because I worked on a project for letting people with chronic stroke do rehabilitation while playing videogames, at home, with a robotic glove [1].

Our group was not the first to design robots for rehabilitation: thousands of researchers have been working on rehabilitation robotics, for at least thirty years [2]. Robots can help the rehabilitation of several diseases such as stroke[3], multiple sclerosis[4], and Parkinson’s Disease[5].

Very likely, you have a facility administering robot-therapy in your city, or in the head city of your region. And if I had a stroke (or if in general I needed rehabilitation), I would definitely try to visit one of these.

Unfortunately, we know that “robots work well only for some people” – and if you are among those who need treatment, I hope it works for you. We also know that not many people can buy a robot for rehabilitation, because of the high costs.

The good news is that you may not need a robot for rehabilitation. While robots are enabling those people with a severe impairment to exercise by providing “extra force” to their bodies, we can do much for our health with other technologies.

A very rapidly growing sector, the industry of smartphones and wearable devices, represents a goldmine for health in general. You can have your sleep monitored by your smartphone, have it checking how far you walk (and warning you if you’re being lazy!) – even on the basic models. Forone or two hundred dollars more you can have your heart rate monitored by a wristband connected to the phone.

A famous slogan was “there’s an app for that” – it’s time for an update to: “there are many apps for that.” This is true even if you are after something more specific, like a pill reminder, something to help you cope with pain, or you want to try a geeky way to quit smoking. Don’t you trust me? Just search some of these terms on your app store.

We do not know yet which of these work and which do not, nor what for. So when you find that something works (or doesn’t work for you), try to share your findings. And look for a different solution, which will hopefully work better.

[1] S. M. Nijenhuis, G. B. Prange, F. Amirabdollahian, P. Sale, F. Infarinato, N. Nasr, G. Mountain,
H. J. Hermens, A. H. A. Stienen, J. H. Buurke, and J. S. Rietman, “Feasibility study into self-
administered training at home using an arm and hand device with motivational gaming
environment in chronic stroke,” J. Neuroeng. Rehabil., vol. 12, no. 1, p. 89, Oct. 2015.
[2] A. Basteris, S. M. Nijenhuis, A. H. Stienen, J. H. Buurke, G. B. Prange, and F. Amirabdollahian,
“Training modalities in robot-mediated upper limb rehabilitation in stroke: a framework for
classification based on a systematic review.,” J. Neuroeng. Rehabil., vol. 11, no. 1, p. 111,
[3] N. Norouzi-Gheidari, P. S. Archambault, and J. Fung, “Effects of robot-assisted therapy on
stroke rehabilitation in upper limbs: systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature.,” J.
Rehabil. Res. Dev., vol. 49, no. 4, pp. 479–96, Jan. 2012.
[4] I. Lamers, A. Maris, D. Severijns, W. Dielkens, S. Geurts, B. Van Wijmeersch, and P. Feys,
“Upper Limb Rehabilitation in People With Multiple Sclerosis: A Systematic Review.,”
Neurorehabil. Neural Repair, Jan. 2016.
[5] A. Picelli, S. Tamburin, M. Passuello, A. Waldner, and N. Smania, “Robot-assisted arm training
in patients with Parkinson’s disease: a pilot study.,” J. Neuroeng. Rehabil., vol. 11, p. 28, Jan.

You can also participate in this conversation by filling out weekly questionnaires on chronic disease at the REISearch forums.


Previous week’s essays
“Prevention is the Better Cure”


2 thoughts on “How new technology can create a healthier public: Bridging Science and Policy

  1. Of course I agree with this. I have read some applications of tele immersion recently. Some medical applications have specified in it and it looks related to this as well. We can proud of the scientific development continuously happening all over the world.

  2. Of all the healthcare apps, I find “Ingress” to be one of the most innovative apps. It’s very easy to get moving and stay in shape when you have to play a game…in real time and in real life.

    One of the biggest problems when it comes to being fit, is to start doing something, and I think that this app is really good at making you leave your home and start getting healthier.

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