Every morning, Akio Tanaka wakes up and reaches for his mobile phone to check on his health.
“Your blood pressure is good and your body fat has been decreasing steadily,” reads an e-mail message. “The air is dry in the area of the town you are going to visit today and strong winds are blowing around the tall buildings. Be careful not to catch a cold. And be sure to take moisture cream with you.”
Tanaka (not his real name) isn’t reading a note from a doting mother or doctor, but a distant computer that’s tracking his state of health and collating it with weather predictions. The mobile service even offers dinner suggestions and tells him how many blankets to use at night.
In turn, Tanaka dials in his daily blood-pressure reading after reading his morning newspaper. It has become routine.
“Health forecast” services of this kind combine data on individuals’ chronic diseases with meteorology, and are becoming increasingly popular with the many cell phone users in Japan.
Weather Line Co., a private weather forecasting firm in Tokyo, launched an e-mail service in the fall. Users create a health profile of themselves by referring to a list of about 70 chronic maladies, including hay fever, heart conditions and depression.
Weather Line then sends them health forecasts every morning, with messages being read out by a popular cartoon heroine. About 5,000 customers are using the pay service, according to the company.
It has long been believed in Japan that weather has an effect on one’s health, but the study of biometeorology, an interdisciplinary field involving the relationship between atmospheric processes and living organisms, was only established in the last century.
More recently, thanks to the spread of the Internet, it has become easier for people to obtain personalized health forecasts. There are also moves afoot to make inroads into legitimate preventive medical care services.
Tokyo consulting company Metocean Environment Inc. has been experimenting with detailed health forecasts, combining patients’ symptoms and health conditions with weather forecast data in cooperation with medical specialists and nursing homes.
It plans to launch “weather diagnoses” for rheumatism and other disorders in a few years, as well as strengthen ties with schools and hospitals.
“For those who are sensitive to changes in the weather, some sort of forecasting is important,” said Masatoshi Yoshino, a meteorologist and professor emeritus at the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture.
“Unlike doctors who try to cure people, health forecasts will play an important role before one gets a disease,” he said.
Japanese are said to have a strong interest in the weather because it changes frequently on the archipelago. It may not be long before health forecasts become firmly established as a form of medical consultation.
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