From WeChat to WeBreathe



Around 100 million adults in China are affected by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term for lung ailments characterised by breathlessness. However, less than 7% of those afflicted are diagnosed because shortness of breath is commonly mistaken as part of the aging process. To address this problem and encourage check-ups, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) created a WeChat tool that enabled self testing for COPD through smartphones.

GSK collaborated with a popular Chinese artist, Wang Ke Wei, and a leading pulmonologist, professor Yang Hu, to design digital images of trees inspired by traditional Chinese blow ink painting. The trees were designed to grow when a user breathes heavily into their smartphone.

The tool’s algorithm uses the sound wave to create a figure of a tree. The healthier the lungs, the larger the tree and number of flowers. Each piece of art is then given a percentage. If the result is lower than 70% the user receives a message saying, ‘Your result is low. We recommend a hospital visit for a COPD check-up’. The art created can be shared across social media channels with a link to encourage others to take the COPD test.

Why it’s hot?
Science meets Art: Combines ancient Chinese art, creative data visualization, and mobile technology into one really engaging diagnostic tool.

And it’s not just what GSK did, but where they did it. WeChat has over 1.08 billion monthly active users and is China’s leading social media platform. By placing the Breath of Life app within WeChat, GSK taps into a space where people are already sharing content relating to health and wellness. Fitness has been a rising focus on social media platforms in China.