The current population of ASEAN is currently around 642 million, and it is expected to grow to 660 million by 2025[1]. The rising population will impact to the people quality of life such as changes in people’s lifestyle that may affect to their health. Data from the ASEAN Secretariat1 and World Health Organization (WHO)[2] show that diabetes, cancer, heart and lung disease which are classified as Noncommunicable Disease (NCDs) are the leading cause of death in Southeast Asia.  WHO reported that those NCDs are killed around 8,5 million people each year. Those leading causes of death are contributed by changes in people’s lifestyle including smoking, alcohol, fast food, poor diet and insufficient physical activity. Without strong action, the combination of rising population and changes in people’s lifestyle may threaten people’s health and future generations.

One approach to address this issue is through the application of the preventive healthcare, which is defined as:

Preventive healthcare deals with the prevention of illness to decrease the burden of disease and associated risk factors. It aims to prevent human body from a disease, either by preventing the occurrence of disease or by halting a disease in human body3.

Having preventive healthcare measures and facilities may provide many benefits for the people but that will require thorough education on how they work so that the public can take advantage of their existence. People must therefore be educated about preventive healthcare, basic understanding on various illnesses and their symptoms and what it takes to maintain good health. If properly disseminated, preventive healthcare may eliminate early symptoms of any disease, increase lifespan and life expectancy, and prevent large medical bills.

Against this backdrop, the 2020 ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women will focus on preventive healthcare in general and will emphasize how preventive healthcare can bring about positive outcomes for ASEAN. The prize seeks female applicants who are engaged in research or are promoting activities related to the preventive healthcare in the region and who are role models for other women working in and pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

[1] ASEAN Secretariat Yearbook 2018, Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat, December 2018