S'pore may beat Japan as healthiest Asian nation

SINGAPORE and Hong Kong are being tipped as the countries most likely to topple Japan from its spot as Asia's healthiest nation by the World Markets Research Centre, a London-based intelligence and analysis company.

Currently, the Republic ranks 10 notches down from Japan, which is in the 20th place - together with New Zealand - on a global health index of 175 countries published this week. Hong Kong stands at No 33.

The index was compiled by the centre using different indicators to give the countries a score where the top mark is 100.

These included how much each spends on health annually, and what it gets back in the life expectancy of its citizens and mortality rates. It also, considers the number of physicians per 100,000 people in the population and the incidence of tuberculosis, and more.

Belgium toped the index with a score of 98. It is followed by Iceland, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Norway and Australia.  Singapore had 80.4.

At the bottom of the center's Health of Nations League table was Sierra Leone with 21.4.  The United States, which sends more on health care than any other country, was placed 17th.

The center's research manager, Ms Michelle Perkins, said: "It's a well-known fact that Japan is a healthy nation.

"But what is more interesting is that a cluster of newly developed countries are climbing the ladder, reflecting increases in wealth and economic miracles in many of the leading Asian countries."

Despite Singapore's ageing population, the nation could outrank Japan in Asia because of its "highly rational distribution of healthcare resources", the report said.

Hong Kong could also vie for the Asian top spot, but may be held back by increased immigration from China.

Japan is hampered by its growing silver-haired population.  Citizens aged 65 years and older make up nearly one in five people there and this ratio is expected to rise to about one in four by 2020.

The current economic crisis in Japan and a declining proportion of people of working age will make it difficult for the country to maintain its health-care resources at the current level, it said.

China came 89th in the rankings, tying with Azerbaijan, Paraguay and Turkey.  But China's health care is improving, said the report, as the country becomes wealthier.

"As its economy grows at rates unmatched anywhere else in the world, so its population's access to health care - and the people's ability and inclination to spend - has increased, and will continue to do so," it explained.  But it warned that regional and wealth inequalities threaten to slow down improvements to its health-care system.