Most people die from non-infectious diseases and this health app wants to make you fitter for life

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The founder of a health care booking app has said he wanted to help people stay fitter after realizing that most people die from non-communicable diseases.

Chevy Beh, founder of Malaysian company BookDoc, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” Monday that he wanted to create a fitness app in light of figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The WHO came up with the data … and said that global deaths due to health, actually 71% are due to non-communicable disease … so we said, how do we gamify this?”

According to WHO figures published in 2016, 71% of global deaths were caused by conditions such as ischemic heart disease and strokes — and exercise can reduce the risk of contracting such illnesses.

Beh’s BookDoc Activ system lets people sync their fitness devices and apps such as Fitbit or Apple Health, and then track their average daily steps over a month. Those steps translate into points, which then become rewards from partners such as gym chain Fitness First, food supplement company GNC and grocery delivery company HappyFresh.

“With a FitBit, a Garmin, you must use the same platform because they want you to be in (their own) ecosystem … but they don’t allow you to have cross devices, so what we did a bit different is that we are device-agnostic, that we just connect to all of their devices,” Beh explained. BookDoc Activ claims to have tracked more than 16,000 billion steps since it launched in 2016. 

The coronavirus has boosted China’s health care tech start-ups, with investments recovering to pre-pandemic levels, according to CB Insights.

During the outbreak, BookDoc partnered with Tencent-backed WeDoctor to provide free health information in a variety of languages, and the platform also works with corporations to help them manage employees’ health benefits.

“We also work with insurance companies … (and) we charge an administrative fee for companies to use those services. Then subsequently we added more (services) such as an e-commerce marketplace … so we have multiple revenue streams,” Beh said.

JD Health, owned by JD.com, provided free online consultations to around 150,000 patients a day in China at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, according to its CEO Xin Lijun.

  • CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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