Singapore should share its expertise in reaching health goals with others: Health experts

Global health experts at a panel discussion to open the 3rd Raffles Dialogue on the Future of Human Well-Being and Security at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel on Nov 27, 2018.
Global health experts at a panel discussion to open the 3rd Raffles Dialogue on the Future of Human Well-Being and Security at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel on Nov 27, 2018.PHOTO: 3RD RAFFLES DIALOGUE

SINGAPORE - Singapore has made great progress in its healthcare system, and should increase its presence on the international stage to share its knowledge and best practices with other countries, urged experts at a dialogue here on Tuesday (Nov 27).

The Republic ranked first in highest healthy life expectancy at birth among 195 countries in the latest Global Burden of Disease Study published in The Lancet this month.

It also came out tops in achieving 40 health-related sustainable development goals set by the United Nations tracked in the study.

And at a panel discussion to open the 3rd Raffles Dialogue on the Future of Human Well-Being and Security, global health experts outlined the takeaway lessons from the Singapore experience.

"There is the key role in this country (Singapore) of government championing health development as a critical priority of national development, said Professor Alan Lopez, Melbourne Laureate Professor and Rowden-White Chair of the Global Health and Burden of Disease Measurement at the University of Melbourne.

"We don't see that near enough in other countries," he added.

Prof Lopez noted that other factors include society appearing to be highly compliant in heeding public health promotion lessons, social cohesion and public health partnerships.

Fellow panellist, Professor Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, agreed that Singapore should play a more prominent role in international health discussions.

He congratulated Singapore for coming out tops in the World Bank's 2018 Human Capital Index released last month, which measures how well economies are developing their human capital.

"But when you're No. 1, that also brings moral obligations to share what you have and not only to remain No. 1 but also that others are getting better," said Prof Piot.

"Global health has become a major part of self-diplomacy so there are good reasons to engage in it."

Singapore's Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the country works closely with international organisations like the World Health Organisation and Asean, and actively participates in other fora such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Group of 20.

He noted that Singapore had itself learnt from some of the world's best practices and adapted them for its own context.

The other panellists at the discussion were Dr Noeleen Heyzer, social scientist and former under-secretary-general at the UN; Dr Richard Horton, Editor-In-Chief of The Lancet, who was also the panel's moderator; and Ms Gianna Gayle Herrera Amul, a Raffles Fellow and a research associate with Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The dialogue, at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, ends on Wednesday.

It is jointly organised by the National University Health System (NUHS), the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, LKYSPP and Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at NUS, and supported by the NUS Medicine International Council and Ministry of Health.

President Halimah Yacob was the guest of honour at the opening gala dinner.