A report published by the United Nations (UN) lately has ranked Singapore as the top country to achieve health-related goals set by the organisation. It beat out 188 other countries evaluated and the findings were published in The Lancet.

Authors of the report stressed on the evident inequalities between high-income and low-income countries and emphasised on the need to narrow the gap in terms of socio-economic factors.

Singapore beats own previous score to take first place

These findings were based on the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study 2016 – funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Specifically, the report analysed the progress of these nations in keeping with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) grounded in the global ambition of “leaving no one behind”.

Nancy Fullman, lead author of the study and scientific advisor at Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at University of Washington in Seattle said that the goals not only set a clear agenda, they also help “create accountability among all countries and help to spur action by key decision makers”.

For completion, 37 of 50 health-related SDG indicators were measured from 1990 to 2016 for all the nations. Subsequently, the team projected indicators to 2030 from these past trends.

It was found that Singapore was better than any other country in terms of achieving the targets set by the UN. The Asian nation even proved superior to Nordic countries; well known for their solid healthcare systems.

Last year, Singapore, Iceland and Sweden shared the first place with a score of 85/100 in the same Lancet study done. This year, Singapore prevailed with an improved score of 87/100 – displaying advances in health and living standards, as well as a propensity to progress in the coming years.

For the latest version of this study, new goal indicators were introduced like vaccine coverage and well-certified death registrations. Setting an exemplary standard, Singapore was one out of just four countries to score full marks in lowering child mortality and improving death registration. Besides that, the nation got high marks for other aspects such as its advancements in universal health coverage, homicide rate, and road injury mortality.

Besides this, the study portrayed areas that Singapore needs to work on; for instance, its mitigation of matters related to air quality. Singapore scored the worst out of the top 25 countries on the list in terms of population exposure to atmospheric particulate matter, and deaths attributable to air pollution.

Additionally, it lost out to the top five countries listed in efforts to reduce the incidence rates of tuberculosis and HIV. Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Somalia were all tied at bottom of the list with a score of just 11 points.

The countries which ranked top 30 in achieving health-targets set by the United Nations. Photo credit: CNN/IHME, University of Washington
The countries which ranked top 30 in achieving health-targets set by the United Nations. Photo credit: CNN/IHME, University of Washington

The breakdown – indicators set difficult to achieve

The UN originally set these health-related goals – minus the latest additions – as part of its international development agenda in September 2015. The targets cover a vast range of aspects such as neonatal and maternal mortalities; incidence of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria; levels of smoking, alcohol, and violence; and exposure to air pollution.

Shockingly, researchers found that fewer than 5% of countries were projected to reach 2030 targets for 11 indicators; including childhood overweight, tuberculosis, and road injury mortality. Moreover, and only 7% would likely eliminate new HIV infections.

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

Thus, the report stressed on increasing “intersectoral action” among less advantageous countries to enable the health goals to be met by all nations. Emphasising on certain socio-demographic factors like “improving educational attainment and reducing poverty” is one way to overcome this.

The authors commented on the projections as they “underscore the need for dramatic, if not unprecedented, acceleration of progress to improve health outcomes, reduce risk exposure, and expand essential health services for all countries”.

Roughly 2,700 collaborators from over 130 countries and territories aided in gathering more than 13 billion data points for the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study. It is regarded as the “largest and most comprehensive epidemiological effort” to measure the loss of health secondary to disease and injuries across places and over time. MIMS

Read more:
In the world of stunted children: Hope thrives when growth falters
UN: "Scales have tipped" as more HIV-infected individuals get drugs, halving AIDS-related deaths
Public health experts say violence and conflict deprives children of the most basic healthcare