Background Taiwan has implemented a national health insurance system since 1995 with high coverage and utilization rate. However, the health care system in Taiwan is facing immense challenges due to rapid population ageing. We have evaluated the landscape of population health by revisiting the results of GBD 2017 study. Methods Taiwan vital registration data (1980–2016) and Taiwan national health insurance database (2016) were used. We also conducted benchmarking comparisons with selected countries in East Asia from 1990 to 2017. Results The age-standardized disability-adjusted life-year (DALY) rates decreased by one-quarter from 1990 to 2017; however, progress was relatively slow compared to the comparator countries and has been stagnant recently. The Social-demographic Index (SDI) level in Taiwan in 2017 was 0.86, which is similar to Japan, Singapore, and South Korea in 2017, while the SDI level of China in 2017 was similar to that of Taiwan (0.69) in 1990. Although Taiwan's SDI reached the same level as those in Japan, Singapore, and South Korea in 2017, modifiable risk factors still contributed to nearly half of Taiwan's total disease burden. Five leading risk factors (high fasting plasma glucose, high body-mass index, alcohol use, illicit drug use, and impaired kidney function) accounted for a higher DALY rate in Taiwan than comparator countries in 2017. Conclusion Taiwan made marked progress in health from 1990 to 2017. However, interventions targeted on major modifiable disease risk factors should be prioritized to realize the full potential of heath improvement in the process of rapid socioeconomic development.
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