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How active is your country? Smartphone data reveals the answer

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates almost 2 billion adults – more than a quarter of the global population – are overweight or obese.

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We all know the path to better health does not involve long periods of inactivity, yet we still eat too much and exercise too little.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates almost 2 billion adults – more than a quarter of the global population – are overweight or obese.

And our smartphones are now providing researchers with a clearer picture of how much exercise we’re doing – or not doing.

Using data amassed from hundreds of thousands of phones worldwide, researchers at Stanford University have discovered huge variations in the average activity levels of different nations.

Hong Kong tops the steps

Residents of Hong Kong SAR did the most exercise, averaging 6880 steps a day, almost twice as much as sedentary Indonesia, at the bottom of the table with 3513.

How active is your country

How active is your country ? Image: Stanford Uni

The researchers analyzed 68 million days’ worth of anonymous data from more than 700,000 people pulled from the step-counting app Argus.

Other countries that fared badly included Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, whose citizens did fewer than 4000 steps a day on average (10,000 steps a day is a target acknowledged by health bodies around the world).

Activity inequality

However, the researchers found it’s not a country’s average number of steps that is the biggest factor shaping obesity levels. Instead it appears to be “activity inequality”.

In short, if there is a large divide between the fittest and the laziest, a country is more likely to have high obesity levels.

For example, in Sweden, where there was little difference in the number of steps taken by the most and least active people, obesity rates are very low.

Meanwhile, the US and Mexico both have similar average step counts, but in the US, which has higher obesity levels, there was a far greater divide between those who exercised and those who didn’t.

In the five countries with the highest levels of activity inequality, individuals are 196% more likely to be obese than in the five countries where inequality is lowest.

The gender divide

Much of this activity inequality is driven by uneven levels of exercise taken by men and women in different countries. In Japan, men and women exercised to roughly the same degree; the country has low levels of both inequality and obesity.

Compare this with Saudi Arabia, where much of the activity inequality results from the low levels of exercise done by women compared to men.

The study is the latest to capitalize on the vast quantities of data available through smartphones, and is far more extensive than previous research in this area. Researchers hope that insights from this data will help us to find new ways of tackling the obesity crisis.

For example, the team also analyzed how easy 69 US cities were to navigate on foot, and unsurprisingly found a strong correlation between activity levels and ease of walking. They suggest this data could be used to support the development of cities that promote physical activity.

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AstraZeneca Approves Thailand’s Vaccine Factory

National News Bureau of Thailand

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BANGKOK (NNT) – AstraZeneca has approved safety standards at Thailand’s vaccine factory and will send the first batch of raw materials for vaccine production in June.

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Health

Skin-lightening products market to reach US$31 billion by 2024

In emerging Asian and African economies, the natural aspiration to enhance one’s circumstances has led to rapid growth in the market for skin-lightening products, which is projected to reach US$31 billion by 2024.

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Recent years have seen evolving awareness of systemic inequities including racism, sexism and pro-Western chauvinism.

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Has Covid-19 prompted the Belt and Road Initiative to go green?

Oxford Business Group

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Has Covid-19 prompted the Belt and Road Initiative to go green?
– Covid-19 led to a slowdown in BRI projects
– Chinese overseas investment dropped off in 2020
– Government remains committed to the wide-ranging infrastructure programme
– Sustainability, health and digital to be the new cornerstones of the initiative 

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Following a year of coronavirus-related disruptions, China appears to be placing a greater focus on sustainable, digital and health-related projects in its flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

As OBG outlined in April last year, the onset of Covid-19 prompted questions about the future direction of the BRI.

Launched in 2013, the BRI is an ambitious international initiative that aims to revive ancient Silk Road trade routes through large-scale infrastructure development.

By the start of 2020 some 2951 BRI-linked projects – valued at a total of $3.9trn – were planned or under way across the world.

However, as borders closed and lockdowns were imposed, progress stalled on a number of major BRI infrastructure developments.

In June China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that 30-40% of BRI projects had been affected by the virus, while a further 20% had been “seriously affected”. Restrictions on the flow of Chinese workers and construction supplies were cited as factors behind project suspensions or slowdowns in Pakistan, Cambodia and Indonesia, among other countries.

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