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Int J Epidemiol. 2001 Oct;30(5):966-73.

Temporal trends and ethnic variations in amenable mortality in Singapore 1965-1994: the impact of health care in transition.

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Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore.



Amenable mortality is used to assess the effects of health care services on gains in mortality outcomes. Possibly differing patterns of trends in amenable mortality may be expected in economically less developed countries, which have undergone rapid epidemiological transition and recent reforms in health care systems, but such studies are scarce. This study was set up to examine the trends in amenable mortality in Singapore from 1965 to 1994; to estimate the relative impact of medical care and primary preventive policy measures in terms of gains in mortality outcomes; to examine ethnic differences in amenable mortality among Chinese, Malays and Indians.


Age-standardized mortality rates were calculated for 16 amenable causes of death in Singapore for six 5-year periods (1965-1969,..., 1990-1994), and for each of the three main ethnic groups for three periods (1989-1991, 1992-1994, 1995- 1997). Amenable mortality rates were divided into those which can be reduced by timely therapeutic care for 'treatable' conditions (e.g. asthma and appendicitis), or by primary preventive measures for 'preventable' conditions (e.g. lung cancer and motor vehicle injury).


Amenable mortality was higher in males (age-standardized rate 109.7 per 100 000 population) than in females (age-standardized rate 60.7 per 100 000 population). Amenable mortality declined by 1.77% a year in males and 1.72% a year in females. By comparison, the average yearly decline in non-amenable mortality was 0.91% in males and 1.17% in females. The decline in amenable mortality was largely due to 'treatable' causes rather than a decline in mortality due to 'preventable' causes of death. Amenable mortality was lowest for Chinese and highest for Malays. Over the recent 9-year period from 1989 to 1997, amenable mortality declined more in Chinese than in Malays and Indians. However, Indian females showed by far the sharpest decline, whereas Indian males, by contrast, showed an increase in amenable mortality, due to both treatable and preventable causes.


In line with findings from European countries, amenable mortality in Singapore declined more than non-amenable mortality. There were more significant gains in mortality outcomes from medical care interventions than from primary preventive policy measures. Gender and ethnic differences in amenable mortality were also observed, highlighting issues of socioeconomic equities to be addressed in the financing and delivery of health care.

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