As world leaders gather to strategise at the Climate Change Conference or COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, I am reminded of COP21. Held in Paris in 2015, Professor Margaret Chan, then World Health Organisation's Director General, talked about climate change and health. Prof Chan, who is one of the newest members of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre’s Academic Medicine Advisory Council, ended her speech with words that ring true even today: “A ruined planet cannot sustain human lives in good health. A healthy planet and healthy people are two sides of the same coin.”
So, while, we at MEDICUS are equally concerned about planet Earth, the main focus of this issue is really on the long-term good health of her people, a large proportion of whom are ageing rapidly. And our longevity will only increase with new breakthrough discoveries, treatments and cures in the exciting field of regenerative medicine by scientists from research centres like Duke-NUS and our partners.
Ageing may have lost some of the stigma it had say 20 years ago but are we really ready to embrace our older selves? With growing population numbers, the resultant increased demands on natural resources make food, living and managing chronic conditions more expensive, pushing us to work well into old age and far beyond traditional “retirement” years. That in turn will push us to ensure our faculties remain intact, fitness optimal and we can avoid becoming dependent on our loved ones or healthcare institutions.
We will need to work together to identify and address challenges concretely, collaboratively and conclusively in different areas of life. Initiatives like Healthier SG are a step towards providing options to different population segments, as we hear from Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung in our “In Conversation With”.
Medical school curricula that have been adapted to include elements such as social prescribing, encourage tomorrow’s doctors to be more in-tune with communities. New programmes like the Health Innovator Programme prepare future-ready clinician-innovators who combine medicine with engineering, business studies, to innovate and find creative solutions for the future.
We also need to create unique platforms that attract different sectors’ leaders—from both the grassroots, administration and policy levels—to come together and bring new ideas to the table—no idea too small, no suggestion too trivial. The World One Health Congress, hosted by the SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute in Singapore for the first time, is one such amazing forum. While many the topics were scientific, I was particularly interested in the panel on developing an international focus on One Health, which seemed more population focussed.
Another important such platform is our Academic Medicine Advisory Council, whose discussions focused on population health and ageing as well as maternal and child health, a major issue in developing countries, but also for our next generation primary care systems which are an important part of Singapore’s healthy population agenda, and regenerative medicine, an area of sharp focus by our scientists on our Academic Medical Campus.
Without further ado, let me invite you to the latest issue of MEDICUS and the insightful stories we have curated for you. As always please let us know how you like (or not) about our magazine so we can truly make it a publication of choice for you.
MEDICUS, the School’s award-winning quarterly magazine, goes beyond the latest discoveries in education, research and academic medicine, shining a spotlight on the people whose ideas are shaping the future of science and medicine. In its coverage of Duke-NUS Medical School, a landmark collaboration between Duke University and the National University of Singapore, MEDICUS tells the stories of the scientists, educators, clinicians, students and alumni who work tirelessly to transform medicine and improve lives for people on the Little Red Dot and around the world.
About the masthead
This issue’s masthead is about the people in our community. In line with our sub-theme of population health, we sought to reflect the diversity of our population, which is made up of individuals of different backgrounds and ethnicities who are living in different states of health as represented by the darkening shade of colour on the masthead. With an ageing population and chronic diseases on the rise, we speak to Duke-NUS researchers who are looking beyond sick care to bring about a healthier nation. We also hear from Singapore's Minister for Health about the plans underway to support such a change in health-seeking behaviours among individuals—all with the hope of moving people from one end of the spectrum to the other, with more seeking healthcare instead of sick care.
Writers and contributors
Chua Li Min
Norfaezah Binte Abdullah