S’pore takes top spot in meeting UN health-related targets: Study

S’pore takes top spot in meeting UN health-related targets: Study
AFP file photo

S’pore takes top spot in meeting UN health-related targets: Study

SINGAPORE — Singapore emerged tops from among 188 countries in attaining health-related goals set by the United Nation (UN), a report showed. The findings were published in medical journal Lancet today (Sept 13).

The results were based on an analysis of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2016, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It looked at how well countries were progressing towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in terms of health.

To do this, researchers measured 37 of 50 health-related SDG indicators over the period from 1990 to 2016 for the countries, and on the basis of these past trends, they projected indicators to 2030.

The Lancet study found that Singapore is closer than any other country in the world to achieving the goals, even ahead of Nordic countries that are traditionally known for their strong healthcare systems.

Leading with a score of 87 out of 100, Singapore broke its tie with Iceland and Sweden, showing improvements in health and living standards, as well as a propensity to do well years down the road. The three countries shared top spot in the same study last year with a score of 85.

Those struggling the most to meet the goals are Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Somalia, which scored just 11 points.

The latest study had new goal indicators such as vaccine coverage and well-certified death registrations, and Singapore did notably well in its achievements in lowering child mortality and improving death registration — being one of only four countries to achieve a perfect score of 100.

It also scored particularly high for its advancements in universal health coverage, homicide rate, and road injury mortality, among others.

However, the findings also showed that Singapore could improve in its mitigation of matters related to air quality.

Among the top 25 countries on that list, which includes the United States, United Kingdom and Japan, Singapore scored the worst in its population’s exposure to atmospheric particulate matter, and deaths attributable to air pollution.

It also did markedly poorer than the top five countries in its efforts to alleviate the incidence rates of tuberculosis and HIV.

The health-related goals that were used as a guidepost in the Lancet study were set by the UN in September 2015 as part of its international development agenda. They cover a broad range of issues including neonatal and maternal mortalities; incidence of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria; levels of smoking, alcohol, and violence; and exposure to air pollution.

Of the 24 indicators measured that comes with defined UN targets, the study found that just less than 10 per cent of the countries (18 countries, including Singapore) are projected to meet at least 10 targets by the 2030 deadline.

Reiterating its point last year that the UN goals are “ambitious”, this year’s report cited the UN target to end the HIV and tuberculosis epidemics as an example, and said: “We still found that no country was projected to meet this target for tuberculosis and no additional countries reached this target for HIV.”

The report highlighted the need for increased “intersectoral action” among worse-off countries to ensure that all countries can reach the health goals. This may be done by focusing on key socio-demographic factors such as “improving educational attainment and reducing poverty”.

More than 13 billion data points were gathered by nearly 2,700 collaborators from more than 130 countries and territories for the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, which is said to be the “largest and most comprehensive epidemiological effort” to quantify the loss of health due to disease and injuries across places and over time.