Global Health Care Issues: Singapore


Fraser Clarke

Across the world a vast range of medical issues affect different parts of the planet to different degrees. Some are global, some are regional and some can be specific to a far smaller area.

As a medic looking at taking your career overseas, knowing as much as you can about a country’s health issues can be the key behind successfully securing a new job. On top of this it can also play a major role in helping you to decide where your future could lie.

Here, therefore, is the final installment in our exclusive series of guides to the major health issues facing the countries we most commonly work with. In this article we will look at the world’s most unique country - Singapore. The planet’s only island city state.

Respiratory Conditions 

Singapore itself is not actually an overly polluted country, despite its intensely developed nature. This is mainly due to its excellent public transportation system, and high taxes on vehicles. The main issues arise from neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, both of whom still perform ‘slash and burn’ agricultural techniques.

This outdated method releases plenty of toxins into the local atmosphere, causing smog, removing the purity of the air and forcing residents to breathe in chemicals which can put them at a much higher risk of conditions such as asthma.

During the slash and burn season (normally around August and September) many residents don’t spend a lot of time outside, and those who do commonly wear face masks to protect themselves from the, often intense, smog.

Whilst many of the respiratory conditions experienced by those in Singapore are fairly minor, the country does have a relatively high rate of lung cancer. This can be linked to the slash and burn season, but is more often as a result of smoking tobacco. Unlike in most other countries smoking rates in Singapore have actually risen over the last decade - especially amongst young adults. Those who smoke tobacco find themselves at an 85% higher risk of lung Cancer and, when combined with the poor air quality, this can make for an extremely unhealthy duo.


Thalassaemia is an inherited blood disorder which is linked heavily with anaemia, and is the most common genetically transferred health issue in Singapore, affecting around one in every 20 people.

Having minor thalassaemia will not cause any symptoms and does not require any treatment, however if a male and female are both carriers of the same type of thalassaemia, they have a risk of having a baby with a severe form of the condition. To try and increase awareness, and even lower the rate of illness in the country, scans are offered to couples who are planning to start a family, in order to determine their chances of having a child who would be at a high risk of suffering from the issue.

More severe forms of the illness can lead to heart and liver problems, as well as hormone issues as a result of excess amounts of iron in the body caused by transfusions. Despite this current treatments of the illness can see those carrying even the most severe form of the condition living into their 60s and often beyond.

Colorectal Cancer

Whilst lung Cancer looks as if it will be a big killer in the future in Singapore, the current most common type of Cancer is colorectal. Around 1500 people are diagnosed with Cancer of the Colon each year, and only around 10% of these cases are due to genetic defects - with the rest being related to lifestyle choices such as smoking and eating fatty foods.

Singapore’s hectic way of life can lead to people picking up quick to eat convenience foods that are often high in fat and salt. This can be avoided, and there are plenty of healthy ‘street food’ options becoming available in the country.

Colorectal Cancer survival rates are around 84% worldwide, and this figure can increase beyond 90% if it is detected at an early stage. Rates in Singapore have remained fairly consistent for a reasonable period of time now, and the country is playing a leading role in Cancer prevention - in the quest to find a cure for the illness.

Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes in Singapore is reaching an ‘epidemic level’ according to some researchers, with estimates showing that more than 10% of the adult population have the condition. It is most common amongst Malays and Indians, with research linking diabetes to a common gene shared by these two groups, rather than directly linking it with the diet in Singapore.

Diabetes is another health issue in the country that is related to lifestyle causes in many cases however. Despite having one of the world’s most well educated populations, the island city state appears to be causing many of its own health problems.


Eyesight concerns in Singapore are a big issue, especially amongst young children. Recent statistics have shown that at least 30% of five year old children in the country have issues with their vision, and this figure can rise as high as 60% by secondary education. Genetically those of Chinese origin are at a higher risk of Myopia (short-sightedness), and the extensive use of modern equipment like video games and mobile phones is increasing these risks further.

Whilst an easily solved issue with glasses, contact lenses or laser eye surgery, the government is doing more to try and drastically lower the amount of young people experiencing issues with their vision. Encouraging children not to read with texts close to their face, or whilst lying down is important; as is encouraging other recreational activities that don’t involve looking at a screen.

Given the role that technology already plays in our daily life however, the chances of this figure dropping in the future are looking slim.

As this is the final installment in our Global Healthcare Issues series we would like to thank all of our readers. We hope you’ve found the series interesting, and we hope it’s played a role (however small) in helping you to decide where your future could lie.

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