SINGAPORE — Singapore’s health care system is sometimes held up as an example of excellence, and as a possible model for what could come next in the United States.
When we published the results of an Upshot tournament on which country had the world’s best health system, Singapore was eliminated in the first round, largely because most of the experts had a hard time believing much of what the nation seems to achieve.
It does achieve a lot. Americans have spent the last decade arguing loudly about whether and how to provide insurance to a relatively small percentage of people who don’t have it. Singapore is way past that. It’s perfecting how to deliver care to people, focusing on quality, efficiency and cost.
Americans may be able to learn a thing or two from Singaporeans, as I discovered in a recent visit to study the health system, although there are also reasons that comparisons between the nations aren’t apt.
“In Singapore, campaigns have encouraged drinking water, and healthier food choice labels have been mandated. The country, with control over its food importation, even got beverage manufacturers to agree to reduce sugar content in drinks to a maximum of 12 percent by 2020.”
A population that is healthier
Singapore is an island city-state of around 5.8 million. At 279 square miles, it’s smaller than Indianapolis, the city where I live, and is without rural or remote areas. Everyone lives close to doctors and hospitals.
Another big difference between Singapore and the United States lies in social determinants of health. Citizens there have much less poverty than one might see in other developed countries.