Computer to chart looks of the future

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 October, 1997, 12:00am

A computerised 'guardian angel' may soon show how you will look in 50 years - based on the cigarettes you smoke, how much you exercise and the type of food you eat.

A government delegation will fly to the US next month to examine the computer program for possible use in Hong Kong hospitals.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is developing the Guardian Angel, a program which records all medical data on every citizen, from womb to grave.

Each person receives a number at birth and records are kept of health histories and dietary habits.

Researchers say the program will be able to show young smokers colour images of how they will look after 20 years of smoking between zero and 20 cigarettes a day.

It will also outline how they would look after years of drugs or fatty food.

Hong Kong is already working on a 'Health Information Super Highway' with computer-based medical records similar to Guardian Angel.

But the ability to give patients multimedia images of themselves is a new application.

Among the delegates is Hospital Authority information technologist Dr John Tse Si-yan who heads a taskforce on computer development.

He called for sustained annual funding of $200 million to ensure the aims of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa - who announced a bureau would co-ordinate and direct information technology - are achieved in public health.

This year's budget is $122 million, down from $133 million last year.

'Mr Tung's initiatives will see technology progressing in Hong Kong, but I don't see any particular focus in the health area,' Dr Tse said.

Singaporean health officials arrive today to study the SAR's progress with the Health Information Super Highway.

Work in computerised health information is undergoing an external audit because its completion date has been delayed two years to 2002.