Cost burden of chronic illness in Asia growing

Living in a modernized metropolis, people walk less, park their bicycles and have different food as highlighted by Henk Bekedam of the World Health Organisation during an interview with Reuters. Chronic diseases and depression affect Asians as much as Western countries and governments have to draft plans to cope with the changes especially with respect to long term costs.

With changing lifestyles, stress and an unhealthy diet, illnesses among the aging population are draining the pockets of caregivers and savings can be wiped out within a year of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

A number of countries, including Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and China, have introduced healthcare insurance. But some schemes are basic and regarded by their citizens as insufficient to cover the cost of drugs and treatment for chronic illnesses.

Phua Kai Hong of the National University of Singapore calls for a more realistic approach to supplement insurance with savings and a strong primary prevention program. "Because of aging we should move more toward savings based schemes and use insurance for catastrophic events," Phua said.

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