1 in 4 found to have chronic illnesses at health event

Members of the public getting free oral health checks by NUS dentistry students and dental officers at the Public Health Service event in Clementi yesterday. Dental checks are being offered at the event for the first time.
Members of the public getting free oral health checks by NUS dentistry students and dental officers at the Public Health Service event in Clementi yesterday. Dental checks are being offered at the event for the first time.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

This shows importance of health screening to detect conditions early, says Amy Khor

Around one in four participants of an annual student-led public health screening held last year was found to have chronic illnesses which required follow-up treatment from a doctor.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor revealed this yesterday at the launch of the 10th edition of the event, to reinforce the importance of health screenings.

She stressed that it is never too late to go for health tests and that people should get screened even if they feel perfectly well.

"Early detection, followed by treatment and good control of the condition, can result in better health outcomes and lower the risk of serious complications," she said.

This weekend, some 1,500 people will get free health and dental screenings, at the annual Public Health Service event organised by medical undergraduates from the National University of Singapore (NUS). The two-day event, which ends today, is being held in Clementi Avenue 3 at a tent beside Block 449.

Participants can get themselves screened for conditions like abnormal blood pressure levels and urinary incontinence. They can also get a dental screening to assess their oral health. Colon cancer screening kits will be given out free.

This year's event marks the first time that participants can register for breast and cervical cancer screening appointments on site. It is also the first time that dental screenings are offered.

Associate Professor Grace Ong, dean of the NUS faculty of dentistry, said oral health is an important part of a person's overall well-being.

"Our body parts are interconnected and it is not unusual that certain chronic diseases can affect the condition of our teeth and gums," she said. Someone who has diabetes, for instance, may have gum disease too as the condition causes inflammation of the gums.

A British study published in 2010 found that people with gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes because inflammation in the body, in areas such as the mouth and gums, plays a role in the clogging of arteries.

The public health event has screened more than 15,000 people since 2004. Last year, about 1,400 people participated in the screening, and nearly 400 were found to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood glucose, and were encouraged to seek follow-up treatment from a doctor.

Dr Khor noted that of these nearly 400 residents, 54.7 per cent visited the doctor, and she encouraged new participants to follow their lead.

One person who has benefited from the yearly initiative is Madam Koh Ai Lan, 54, who was found to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol at last year's event.

"I didn't think I needed to get screened because I exercise regularly. But after I found I had those conditions, I've been going for regular reviews every three months," said the housewife.

"I've also encouraged my family members to get checked."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline '1 in 4 found to have chronic illnesses at health event'. Print Edition | Subscribe