Ex-Harvard prof launches book on S'pore health-care system

SINGAPORE - A former Harvard professor has launched his book on Singapore's health-care system.

Dr William Haseltine said he was inspired by a 2010 speech by then Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan explaining the Republic's approach to the issue.

"The Singapore system is unique in that it provides among the best health quality in the world at the lowest cost among any developed economy. And I think there are lessons to be learnt," said Dr Haseltine.

"As people plan their health-care systems, they should be aware of what Singapore has done. I was surprised to find no one had written a book on the topic, and that is the genesis of it."

The 68-year-old is the chairman and president of Access Health International.

His book, Affordable Excellence: The Singapore Healthcare Story, fits in with the work of the non-profit organisation, which is dedicated to promoting access to quality and affordable health care worldwide.

Launched on Wednesday at the regional World Health Summit in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, it is meant to be a concise guide targeted at policymakers around the globe.

It is the culmination of two years' worth of interviews with both Mr Khaw and current Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, policymakers, hospital chief executives, heads of various government agencies, doctors, and many other people.

The Singapore system is "based on a relatively clear-eyed view of human nature", said Dr Haseltine. "And that is if you have to pay for something yourself, you're going to be much more careful."

He also lauded Medisave, a compulsory savings plan unique to Singapore. These features have contributed to the nation spending only about 4 per cent of its gross domestic product on health care, compared with 16 per cent in the United States.

The book, published by the National University of Singapore's NUS Press for the Asian market, is on sale for $32.

US think-tank Brookings Institution will also be publishing a version early next month for other parts of the world.

There are also plans to have the e-book available on Amazon, and a PDF version on the Access Health International website. Both electronic versions will come with annual updates.

melpang@sph.com.sg


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