Health issues are always evolving, with each country and continent having its own unique set of challenges. In the latest in our exclusive new series, Global Health Issues, we’ll take a look at each country we work with, and examine what conditions are most prevalent there.
In the penultimate in what’s proving to be a popular series we’re examining the challenges in Singapore - the world’s only island city state.
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 that deter people from buying vehicles. The main issues arise from neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, both of whom still perform outdated ‘slash and burn’ agricultural techniques.
This outdated method releases plenty of toxins into the local atmosphere, causing smog, removing the purity of the air and forcing residents to breathe in chemicals which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 - with recent statistics showing that as many as 20% of children in the country asthmatic.
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. Again 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 it can create a toxic combination.
Diabetes in Singapore is reaching ‘epidemic level’ according to some researchers, with estimates showing that around one in nine people in the country 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.
In one of the most concerning statistics it is estimated that around 1,200 Singaporeans require an amputation because of Diabetes, with many of these preventable with better management of the condition.
Recent figures have started to show a return of Dengue Fever to Singapore - a viral condition is spread by mosquitoes and is common in countries near the equator. In the majority of cases the symptoms are fairly mild and not dissimilar to a fever (headache, nausea, joint pain etc) however in certain situations it can become far more serious and even life threatening in a small number of cases.
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 2,300 people are diagnosed with Cancer of the Colon annually, 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.
Vision 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 eyesight, and this figure can rise as high as 60% by secondary education.
Genetically those of Chinese origin are at a higher risk of Myopia (more commonly referred to as short-sightedness), and the extensive use of modern equipment like video games and mobile phones is further increasing these risks.
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.
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