10 facts you should know about Singapore's 200-year healthcare history

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong looking at the artefacts on display in the mobile truck exhibition at South View Primary School on Jan 5, 2014. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong looking at the artefacts on display in the mobile truck exhibition at South View Primary School on Jan 5, 2014. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The National Heritage Board (NHB), in collaboration with the Museum Roundtable, has remodelled a truck and transformed it into a mobile dispensary which will house its travelling exhibition entitled 200 Years of Healthcare. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
The National Heritage Board (NHB), in collaboration with the Museum Roundtable, has remodelled a truck and transformed it into a mobile dispensary which will house its travelling exhibition entitled 200 Years of Healthcare. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
The National Heritage Board (NHB), in collaboration with the Museum Roundtable, has remodelled a truck and transformed it into a mobile dispensary which will house its travelling exhibition entitled 200 Years of Healthcare. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
The National Heritage Board (NHB), in collaboration with the Museum Roundtable, has remodelled a truck and transformed it into a mobile dispensary which will house its travelling exhibition entitled 200 Years of Healthcare. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - The essence of Singapore's medical milestones the past 200 years has been captured in a roving healthcare exhibition. Launched at South View Primary School in Choa Chu Kang on Monday, the exhibition in a truck will travel to 20 schools, public hospitals and other community venues till March. Here are 10 facts about Singapore's healthcare history:

1. Before official healthcare was introduced in Singapore in the 1860s, traditional medical practices, as well as home remedies were the primary means of healthcare for non-European communities.

2. Infectious diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis were merciless killers here in the 19th century. Smallpox vaccination was made mandatory in May 1869, yet public health measures remained largely inadequate.

3. The first hospital to be built on the island was the Singapore General Hospital, originallyin the vicinity of Bras Basah Road and Stamford Road.

4. The colonial government introduced a series of healthcare services in the early 1900s such as the Maternal and Child Health Service in 1907, and the School Health Service in 1921. However, the population continued to rely on traditional medicines.

5. The Alexandra, Sembawang, and Changi hospitals were military hospitals when they were first established in the 1900s. Alexandra Hospital, when it was set up, was the largest and best-equipped hospital in the British Far East Command.

6. In addition to healthcare, many postwar health campaigns were introduced to address the country's health issues, including the Dental Health Campaign in the 1960s, National Heart Week in the 1970s and the National Smoking Control Programme in the 1980s.

7. The Two is Enough slogan is well-remembered by Singaporeans as part of the Family Planning campaign in the 1970s. The campaign was so effective that fertility rates in Singapore fell from over four children per female in 1965, to fewer than two in the 1980s.

8. In a move to improve the nutritional intake of primary school pupils, the Singapore Government introduced a milk scheme in 1974, under which milk was sold at reduced prices to pupils. Children from needy families did not need to pay.

9. Major steps to keep healthcare affordable were taken from the 1980s onwards, with the introduction of schemes such as Medisave (1983), Medishield (1984), and Medifund (1993).

10. In addition to general treatment, the Government also expanded on the number of existing specialist centres. These include the Singapore National Eye Centre (1990), the Singapore Heart Centre (1994), the National Dental Centre (1997), and the National Cancer Centre Singapore (1999).