The National University of Singapore and the National University Health System convened the inaugural Raffles Dialogue in 2015 as a gathering of global thought and opinion leaders to review the state of human well-being and security (HWS), a key concern facing all countries, rich and poor alike. The second Dialogue, takes place from September 4-6 this year. Prof Tikki Pangestu, Visiting Professor at the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and programme co-chairman for the 2nd Raffles Dialogue writes about the key issues to be discussed.

What kind of a world do we live in today?

We live in a world dogged by instability, uncertainty and upheaval. Numerous threats to human well-being and security exist in the form of global warming and climate change, often accompanied by extreme weather events which often result in natural disasters, famines and food insecurity. Epidemics of infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance and chronic diseases continue to plague the world, driven by the forces of globalisation, warmer temperatures, voluntary and forced movement of people around the world and the indiscriminate use of antibiotics. While globalisation has arguably lifted the living standards of many people and reduced global poverty rates, inequities continue to persist and many low- and middleincome countries still struggle with good governance and maintenance of peace, safety and stability for their populations. As populist and inward-looking sentiments dominate the world stage, international and multilateral organisations are under close scrutiny for being no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in an increasingly chaotic world.


How can healthcare practitioners help
to ensure human well-being and security?

Healthcare practitioners can continue to champion and promote all dimensions of human well-being and security. In its 1948 constitution, the WHO defined health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. In this regard, healthcare practitioners should focus not just on treating diseases but also on giving attention to preventive and rehabilitative strategies and promotion of health more broadly, including mental and spiritual well-being. In this regard, and in the context of the increasing costs of healthcare globally, healthcare practitioners can play a crucial role in promoting healthy behaviours among the population.


At the same time, healthcare practitioners cannot go it alone. In an increasingly inter-connected and inter-dependent world, they have to cooperate and coordinate closely with practitioners in other sectors of society, including those in the public sector and within communities and civil society.


What solutions will work?

Rapid technology advances as a result of unprecedented advances in knowledge in the past century, especially in the life sciences, has resulted in many innovations which provide solutions in the areas of food security, curative and preventive medicine and epidemic preparedness which, collectively, may help to ensure the future of human wellbeing and security. These range from the development of pesticide-resistant crops with high nutritional value, to vaccines which prevent infectious diseases and cancer, and to rapid, accurate diagnostics to enable timely public health responses to disease outbreaks. At the same time, ‘big data’ analytics and powerful modelling tools are increasingly used to aid the development of better, evidence-informed policies in various sectors.

For these solutions to really work and have an impact, however, they have first to reach those in most need. Equity, affordability and accessibility gaps still exist in ensuring that these solutions reach those in need, especially people living in the developing world. At the same time, technological solutions alone are insufficient — robust health systems founded on strong political will and commitment and societal acceptance are central to ensuring human well-being and security.


How relevant is this topic for Singapore, Asia and the world?

The topic is highly relevant for Singapore, which sees movement of humans and goods across its borders in large numbers, through trade, tourism and migrant workers. In a globalised world, and in a region still characterised by wide disparities in human and economic development, the topic is of great importance and relevance to Singapore. As a small, vulnerable island state, any upheavals or instability in neighbouring countries will directly affect and impact Singapore and its people. At the same time, Singapore, with its strong institutions and research capabilities, has much to offer the region and the world in terms of technical expertise and experience in various fields which will help to strengthen regional capabilities and preparedness in all dimensions of human well-being and security. In this way, Singapore has a key leadership role to play in the Asian region and beyond.


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