SINGAPORE (July 23): Eight in 10 medical practitioners say Singapore’s healthcare system should focus more on disease prevention as Singaporeans live longer and are predisposed to chronic diseases at an earlier age.

In addition, nearly half or 49% of the 200 practitioners surveyed noted that Singaporeans will find it harder to cope with health-related expenses, as more of them manage more than one chronic disease. These included dementia, heart problems, osteoporosis, diabetes and cancer.

These were some of the results highlighted in the Health for 100? Healthy care in Singapore report researched and written by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by Prudential, the global insurance group.

The report also noted the importance of enforcing preventive care at a younger age. For instance, only 45% of respondents felt that Singaporeans between 25 and 45 were proactive in preventing diabetes. This contrasts with the 66% between 45 and 65 and 69% for those above 65, which indicate people become more proactive in looking after their health as they age.

At the launch of the report, panelists Sidharth Kachroo, head of medical portfolio management at Prudential Singapore, and Lim Wee Shiong, senior consultant at Tan Tock Seng hospital, agreed more needed to be done to get Singaporeans to stay healthy at a younger age so that necessary steps can be taken to prevent the onset of a chronic disease.

Lim argued for a shift away from the current “shock and awe” method to one that is more educational and targeted. For example, to encourage the use of exercise to overcome ailments, “Exercise is hip” could be the campaign slogan to encourage the younger crowd to stop leading sedentary lifestyles while the slogan “Exercise is medicine” should be targeted at older people.

Lim also stressed the need to encourage exercise and healthy living in children. One example is for schools to create mathematical problems centered around calories which would help impress on then the importance of eating healthy.

At the policy level, the report also highlighted a need to refine Singapore’s healthcare system and rethink how medical care is provided given the inadequacy of medical coverage for longer lives.

Two in five of the survey respondents noted the need for a more integrated system with greater synergy between primary care, hospitals, long-term care and home care facilities to reduce inefficiencies, hospitalisation time and costs.

Kachroo, Lim and another panelist at the launch, Jeremy Lim, partner at Oliver Wyman, also noted that technology -- with its quality of being customisable -- could be an enabler as it allows the personalisation of exercise routines to suit individual interests and motivate people to lead active lifestyles.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming the contraction of chronic diseases, TTSH’s Lim said, perhaps, the most powerful motivator to keeping fit and healthy is to find a cause greater than ourselves – for example, being around to enjoy one’s family and friends for a long time without being a burden to them.