MOH to wage war on diabetes

A diabetic patient undergoing dialysis treatment at Kim Keat Dialysis Centre.
A diabetic patient undergoing dialysis treatment at Kim Keat Dialysis Centre. PHOTO: ST FILE

Measures include promoting healthy living and getting more people to go for screening

The Ministry of Health has declared war on diabetes, describing it as one of the biggest drains on the healthcare system here.

In outlining how the Government intends to battle the disease, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed in Parliament that four Singaporeans lose a limb or appendage daily because of complications from diabetes.

Dealing with diabetes is already costing more than $1 billion a year, he said during the debate on his ministry's budget yesterday.

"Left undetected, untreated or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputations," he warned.

Of the over 400,000 diabetics in Singapore today, one in three does not even know he has the disease.

Of those who do know, one in three has poor control over his blood sugar levels. If nothing is done, things will get worse, with one out of every three people here - more than a million - getting diabetes.

"Therefore, I am declaring war on diabetes," Mr Gan said.

"We want to help Singaporeans live life free from diabetes and, for those with the disease, to help them control their condition to prevent deterioration."

Mr Gan will co-chair a new Diabetes Prevention and Care Taskforce with Acting Education Minister Ng Chee Meng that will include people from the public and private sectors, as well as patient advocacy and caregiver groups.

This "war" will start with the young. Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said it is worrying that children and young people are getting increasingly overweight.

"Childhood obesity is likely to persist and progress into adulthood," he said. Such individuals are at higher risk of getting chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

"It is important for us to work upstream to lay strong foundations for our young to lead healthier and more productive lives, starting from those as young as two years old," said Dr Lam.

He will jointly lead an inter-agency NurtureSG Taskforce with Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary in this effort.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor's Women's Health Committee will help women with gestational diabetes prevent birth complications and tackle higher risk of diabetes in the child.

Studies show four in five babies born to women with uncontrolled gestational diabetes will likely become obese or diabetic.

Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat will work with the community to promote healthy living and reduce the prevalence of diabetes.

He will try to get more people to screen for diabetes, and strengthen the follow-up treatment for those diagnosed with the disease.

Said Mr Gan: "The war on diabetes will not be a quick battle, but a long war requiring sustained effort."

Success will be far reaching as it will "curb not just diabetes but other related chronic diseases such as heart disease, and we will improve the lives of Singaporeans and reduce the burden on their families".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'MOH to wage war on diabetes'. Print Edition | Subscribe