More water coolers in fight against diabetes

Panel's idea to help wean public off flavoured drinks among those accepted by MOH

Installing more water coolers in public spaces to encourage people to cut out flavoured drinks, and having competitions to promote healthy food preparation and cooking are steps that the Government will be taking to combat diabetes in Singapore.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) outlined these plans yesterday at an event at the Lifelong Learning Institute. It was responding to recommendations made by the inaugural Citizens' Jury in January.

The jury, comprising 76 people from different walks of life tasked to come up with ideas on how to prevent and manage diabetes, had made 28 recommendations.

The MOH has accepted 14 of them and is exploring 13.

It will not be considering the suggestion to rate hawker centres based on their healthy food options at the moment, as it will be difficult to implement due to the range of foods sold.

The recommendations it has accepted include the formation of a platform that consolidates all diabetes-related materials, diabetes awareness programmes for children and engaging celebrities to promote healthier eating.

The jury had also recommended raising the yearly $400 Medisave withdrawal limit under the Chronic Disease Management Programme.

The ministry had announced during its Committee of Supply debate last month that this will be increased to $500 from June.

Of the recommendations under consideration, MOH deputy secretary Ngiam Siew Ying said: "Those are the ones that we needed to refine a little bit more... Maybe focus the ideas a bit more to see how they can be implemented."

These include restrictions on fast-food and snack advertisements, and giving out health points and travel rebates to encourage physical activity.

Nurse Lee Xiu Hua, 33, was among those who recommended having a "Go Green Guide" that uses a traffic light system to help people navigate their way towards making healthy food choices.

The guide will label healthy foods green, amber for those that should be taken in moderation, and red for those that should be avoided.

MOH said more research was needed but has placed this suggestion under consideration.

Ms Lee said: "There are so many divergent views of what is considered a good diet, so a guide like this would be really helpful."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 15, 2018, with the headline 'More water coolers in fight against diabetes'. Print Edition | Subscribe