Off the tip of southern Malaysia lies the small city-state Singapore. This sovereign island exists as a successful global finance, commerce and trade hub despite its lack of natural resources. A tropical nation, Singapore boasts one of the highest life expectancies and a generally efficient health system. Nevertheless, there are several widespread diseases in Singapore that need to be further addressed. Here are some common diseases in Singapore.

Although Singapore is highly developed and technologically advanced, its citizens often face significant health issues because of the nation’s proximity to Malaysia and Indonesia, two countries that produce an immense amount of air pollution. Singapore is the third-most densely populated country in the world, so communicable diseases like the flu and the common cold often run rampant due to close quarters.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
HFMD, which presents with blisters and rashes on hands, feet and face, spreads quickly through small communities, transmitted through bodily fluids. Because it spreads through touch, it is especially prevalent among children.

In the first three weeks of 2017, there were 1,700 reported cases of HFMD, a significant increase from the 1,500 reported in 2016. Singaporeans have focused efforts to improve hygiene in low-income areas in order to prevent spread. There has been an incredible flow of information from the Ministry of Health to citizens to equip them, especially those with children, with the necessary tools to break HFMD’s chain of transmission. For example, there are lists provided with schools that have over 10 cases of HMFD within a short period of time so that parents can know to take their children away from school. Singapore has been more diligent with closing schools when there are several cases in the area to prevent rapid transmission.

Cardiovascular Diseases
Singapore, unlike many of its Southeast Asian neighbors, generally suffers from the same health concerns as Europe and North America. Cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death globally. In Singapore, they place the highest burden on life by a large margin due to the high rate of mortality. Ischemic heart disease, which involves narrowing arteries, is particularly devastating as it prevents sufficient levels of oxygen and blood from reaching the heart. Cardiovascular diseases led to almost a third of all deaths in the country, accounting for about 15 deaths per day in 2014.

Many Singaporeans suffer from cardiovascular diseases as a result of an unbalanced lifestyle combined with poor diet. Singapore, as a highly advanced nation, is prone to Westernization, which often involves an increased amount of fast food. Much of the threat of these diseases are preventable through lifestyle changes. More exercise and better nutrition are key to avoiding these common diseases in Singapore.

Diabetes
Another noncommunicable disease that severely affects Singapore is diabetes. This illness prevents the body from properly reacting to or creating insulin, which balances blood sugar levels. According the World Health Organization , the number of adults who have diabetes has quadrupled over the last 35 years due to “‘the way people eat, move and live.’” Around the world, particularly in developed nations, people have been indulging in high-calorie foods while leading more sedentary lifestyles, leading to widespread Type 2 Diabetes and other illnesses associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, Singapore currently has the second-highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations, with 10.53 percent of Singaporeans between 20 and 79 having diabetes. The number of Singaporeans with diabetes has been increasing with time. Only 4.7 percent had diabetes in 1984. The number rose to nine percent by 2004.

While lifestyle does play a significant role in diabetes, genetics must be considered as well. The vice president of the Diabetic Society of Singapore said that “we actually have a much higher percentage of body fat as compared with our Western counterparts.” Obesity can lead to insulin-resistance and causes diabetes, and these increased levels of body fat can also increase the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases.

In April 2016, Singapore’s Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong vowed to battle diabetes. Furthermore, as a result of this increase of illnesses associated with unhealthy lifestyles, like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, Singaporeans, especially younger generations, have begun to alter their lifestyles by increasing exercise and controlling their diets to prevent common diseases in Singapore.

Akhil Reddy
Photo: Flickr

Water Singapore
Singapore’s Public Utility Board (PUB) believes that it has an innovative answer as to how to improve water quality in Singapore.

PUB is responsible for the collection, production, distribution and reclamation of water in Singapore. For a country that, for a large amount of its lifetime, relied on importing water from Malaysia to moderate its water scarcity, water quality in Singapore is an important issue. Hence, the PUB’s mission to “ensure an efficient, adequate and sustainable supply of water” is quite a big deal.

The organization’s solution came the form of a project called the “Four National Taps,” comprised of imported water from Malaysia, local catchment, NEWater and desalinated water.

Understanding how these “taps” work is essential to understanding why the water quality in Singapore is now reported to be very good. The local catchment tap involves the collection of rainwater running through more than 8,000 kilometers (or 4,970.97 miles) of waterways to one of the 17 reservoirs located around the country.

Desalination is the process of removing salt from seawater. Singapore’s two desalination plants alone allow PUB to meet 25% of the nation’s water need. The NEWater tap includes the use of advanced technologies to treat used water so it may be used for drinking and industrial use– essentially recycling water. This tap has been proven to be both cost-effective and efficient and is used to supply 30% of the nation’s water demand; by 2060 it is expected to meet 55% of the nation’s demand.

The NEWater tap includes the use of advanced technologies to treat used water so it may be used for drinking and industrial use, essentially recycling water. This tap has been proven to be both cost-effective and efficient and is used to supply 30% of the nation’s water demand; by 2060 it is expected to meet 55% of the nation’s demand.

PUB takes water quality in Singapore very seriously, claiming that Singapore’s tap water is now “well within the World Health Organization drinking water guidelines and U.S. Environmental Public Health (Quality of Piped Drinking Water) Regulations.”

The drive for Singapore to have and maintain high-quality water is further illustrated through its initiation of several community-focused programs to educate citizens on the importance of the conversation and appreciation of water. Minister Vivian Balakrishnan stated: “Although we can be confident of meeting our water needs, let us remember that every drop of water is precious. Do continue to practice good water-saving habits and avoid unnecessary consumption. We can make every drop count.”

Obinna Ikechukwu Iwuji

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Singapore
In recent history, Singapore has had a complicated relationship with refugees. Having been burned once before, Singapore now routinely turns away refugees with the intention of turning the responsibility over to a third party. But should they be doing more to help? Here to help you decide are ten facts about refugees in Singapore:

  1. Following the Vietnam war, refugees known as “Vietnamese boat people” came flooding out of their country to Southeast Asia looking for a safe haven. With this refugee crisis in mind, the Singapore government and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agreed on a policy that would provide refugees with international protection. Singapore was to be a kind of limbo by temporarily housing refugees in a transit camp while the UNHCR planned for a more permanent resettlement.
  2. However, the number of refugees continuously arriving proved to be too great, and after a 1989 conference on Indochinese refugees in which committee members decided to enact a new policy called the Comprehensive Plan of Action, Singapore’s transit camp suffered greatly. With a new refugee screening policy in place, Singapore continued to accept new entrants, but the entrants were now not guaranteed resettlement, even temporarily.
  3. Singapore’s transit camp was now a place for rejected asylum seekers to gather, many of whom refused to leave voluntarily. The threat of repatriation caused many refugees to protest the UNHCR, go on hunger strike, or even attempt suicide. Singapore government officials, feeling betrayed by resettlement countries and embittered by the whole experience, closed the camp in 1996 and promised that refugees would no longer be allowed in Singapore, even if another country pledged to take them in.
  4. For many years, Singapore held firm to this policy, stopping refugees at coastlines and, instead of taking them in, providing them with food, water and fuel before sending them away.
  5. However, Singapore’s refugee policy has been slowly softening in recent years. In 2009, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, addressed the problem of Rohingyas searching for, and being unable to find, a haven after fleeing from Burma. A senior minister of state for foreign affairs clarified that Singapore could not accept asylum seekers, but would offer humanitarian aid so that they could depart for another country.
  6. Apart from Singapore’s unpleasant experience with refugees in the past, the government gives one other reason for refusing to accept new entrants into the country: space. Singapore is the second smallest country in Asia and also one of the most densely populated. Refugees would certainly put an extra strain on the country’s infrastructure.
  7. A lack of space cannot be reason alone to reject refugees, as Singapore actually plans to increase its population from approximately 5.5 million to up to 6.9 million by the year 2030. In 2013, Singapore’s Population White Paper projected this growth, arguing that the country’s land area has grown by 23 percent since 1965 and that increasingly stable investments into infrastructure facilities and land capacity make this population growth sustainable.
  8. As of right now, refugees in Singapore are completely unwelcome, joining one of many Southeast Asian countries that refuse to do so.
  9. It may be, though, that Singapore is finally healing from its past experiences with refugees. In 2016, the UNCHR launched a new campaign to appeal to governments around the world to join the fight to end statelessness, with a special chapter dedicated to Advocates for Refugees in Singapore (the AFR-SG).
  10. Singapore is still a long way away from changing its policy on accepting refugees, but with the continued efforts of the UNCHR, the AFR-SG and anybody who takes the time to help, it is possible to move toward finding a home for the millions of people still left stateless.

– Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

Education Systems
Though no perfect educational system exists, many countries could learn from the following five countries to improve their own education systems, resulting in better math and science skills.

    1. The Netherlands: What makes the Netherlands’ school system work is that it offers different classes for students with different learning interests. Instead of just going straight to college after high school, students can choose to go to a pre-university course. The country also requires students to learn a second language, so that students can prepare to communicate with the outside world. The school system is also not so stressful on children. Unlike countries such as the United States, the Netherlands gives homework sparingly, and the school days are even shorter, with children being able to go home for lunch break and having a half-day on Wednesdays.
    2. Singapore: Although Singapore’s education has been known to be stressful for students, there are effective methods within this education system. Singapore became an independent country in the 1960s, so the country wanted to prove itself by expanding education. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment scores, Singapore has some of the best results in reading, math and science. Students are given equal opportunity and teachers are from the top five percent of graduates.
    3. Barbados: Barbados has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, estimated at 98 percent. The country has one of the oldest and most effective education systems in the eastern Caribbean. While providing a good number of schools, Barbados’s government also created the Skills Training Programme to prepare students for careers in mechanics, electronics, plumbing and other technical occupations.
    4. Luxembourg: Luxembourg has special trilingual education programs that can be beneficial to students who wish to communicate abroad. Almost everyone in Luxembourg is trilingual, with fluency in French, German and Letzeburgesch. Teachers are also paid the highest salaries out of any country.
    5. Finland: Like the Netherlands, Finland does not give much homework to its students, and along with Singapore and South Korea, has top scores in reading, math and science. However, standardized testing is not too demanding. Students are given more time for a break in between studies, with 15 minutes of play for every 45 minutes of class. Education is also free for everyone, including Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate programs.                   

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Singapore's economic success
In 1965, Singapore was ousted from Malaysia and began its journey as an independent society. Singapore’s per capita income was $500, and although the country was not extremely poor, malnutrition was prevalent. However, the per capita today stands at an impressive $55,000 — the largest increase for any newly independent nation. In many ways, Singapore’s economic success can be attributed to the young nation’s leadership.

Singapore’s First Prime Minister

Lee Kuan Yew served as Singapore’s first prime minister from 1965 until 1990. It was his firm autocratic leadership that took Singapore from rags to riches. Lee believed the test to determine the effectiveness of a political system is whether it improves the standard of living for most of its people.

According to Lee’s definition of an effective political system, Singapore is the epitome of precisely that, but this effectiveness comes at the expense of democracy.

While Singapore tops the charts in competitive economies and in the prevention of corruption and graft, it scores in the bottom half of societies concerning democratic participation and personal liberties.

It is unusual for Westerners to hear that an autocratic government performs more effectively and efficiently than a democratic one; however, history and empirical data show that Lee’s leadership led to a society that produced more wealth per capita, better health and more security for a majority of its citizens over other societies.

Other empirical data shows that Singapore reduced its infant mortality rate faster than any other society in the world. The infant mortality rate went from 35 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1965 to an astounding 2.2 deaths per 1,000 births in 2013 — a lower mortality rate than the U.S. Additionally, these children go on to receive an education that was ranked best in the world in 2015 in math and science.

Meritocracy, Pragmatism and Honesty.

Singapore’s economic success is not only accredited to the work of Lee. Goh Keng Swee, an architect, and S. Rajaratnam, Singapore’s philosophical insight, also contributed to the success of the country. All three implemented a set of ground rules that Singapore has thrived on: Meritocracy, Pragmatism and Honesty.

Meritocracy upholds that the best citizens should be chosen to run the country, not those in the ruling class. Pragmatism means to copy the best practices that have been utilized by other societies and apply and adapt them to Singapore. Honesty is essential to combat corruption, the downfall of many societies.

Many look down on Singapore because it is viewed as a benevolent and refined dictatorship, but it holds free elections every five years. The population in Singapore is one of the best educated in the world, and the citizens continue to vote for the “un-free” society that it is. Not only do inhabitants choose to continue to live in Singapore, but also people from the Americas and parts of Europe choose to move there.

One can argue that Singapore has made a tremendous comeback, and has become of the best success stories in history; however, it is debatable whether its dictatorship is the best approach to maintaining a successful society. As of today, it appears that Singapore is one of the best places to be born and live.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr