SINGAPORE - Singaporeans facing major threats to public health can always count upon a dedicated front-line force to tackle problems squarely and make a difference, as was seen during the Sars crisis.
Such determination is once again evident among the 30,000 grassroot volunteers who are helping the National Environment Agency in the fight against dengue, going door to door in both public and private housing estates to disseminate information.
With the dengue toll crossing the five-figure mark (and perhaps topping 15,000 to set an alarming new record), it falls on everyone to make a contribution to the effort in whatever way possible.
Anti-dengue measures are already the subject of much public discussion and many have written to the press to offer suggestions.
Some notions may not be technically sound - like the theory that the haze might depress the incidence of dengue - but what matters is how active interest can be translated into community action at different levels.
Schools, merchant and hawker associations, civic organisations and government agencies can be brought together in more dynamic ways for the effort, as the disease is poised to spread during the hot months ahead from the eastern part of the island to the north and west.
As grassroots activism grows across the island, it is important to study the communication links among different groups and the modalities of cooperation. Understanding such movements can enable the nation to effectively tap more volunteers down the road as other public health issues arise. I
Indeed, given the nature of dengue, it is quite likely that a similar national response will be called for again and again in the future.
The disease, which is endemic in over 100 countries, is just one of many serious health threats that will crop up periodically and affect everyone.
This is why they must be tackled collectively and not simply left to officials.
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