SINGAPORE (July 26): Singapore has the highest life expectancy among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, with average life expectancy increasing from 76.1 years in 1990 to 84.8 years in 2017. But more than a decade of that extended lifespan is likely to be spent in poor health.

These statistics were released in a recent research paper produced by the Ministry of Health and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Titled “The Burden of Disease in Singapore”, it is part of the World Health Organization’s global studies on the topic.

“We need to invest in people when they are young so they maintain a healthy lifestyle,” says health economist Phua Kai Hong of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. “The poor health before death must be shortened… so people live to a ripe old age and have a very quick period of disease and ‘conk off’.”

“That’s the most ideal and cost-effective healthcare system,” Phua adds.

On the back of an ageing population, overall government healthcare expenditure has been increasing, from $4 billion in 2011, to a projection of more than $13 billion next year.

Now, healthcare experts and policymakers want to reduce the number of years Singaporeans spend carrying the burdens of heart diseases, cancers, musculoskeletal disorders and mental conditions — the top causes of poor health in the country.

After all, a lengthy period of poor health affects more than an individual’s quality of life: The state and broader society bears the consequences of the individual’s lessened contributions to the economy and society – and the cost of healthcare.

“The future of healthcare will look at how to compress morbidity, not just investing in high fangled technology to keep people living longer, but asking ourselves if we are really contributing to health outcomes or are we just prolonging life for its own sake,” Phua says.

Find out more about the government’s plan to delay the onset of ageing so Singaporeans can live longer and healthier in The Edge Singapore (Issue 892, week of July 29), available at newsstands now.

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