Parliament: Some health programmes tailored by ethnic group to tackle lifestyle, diet

SINGAPORE - SEVERAL health programmes are tailored differently for the various ethnic groups to better tackle particular health concerns due to factors like lifestyle and diet, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim told the House.

"Malays have a common way of eating the kind of dishes that they like, similarly for Chinese as well as others," he said.

This was why the Health Promotion Board (HPB) took a targeted approach by having calendars and workshops for different audiences, on top of its overall efforts to get people to have a balanced diet, exercise and go for health checks, he added.

Dr Faishal was replying to Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who asked about plans to address health issues facing the Malay community.

Statistics put out by the national registry of diseases last month saw a disproportionate number of diabetics and patients with kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes from the Malay community in 2013, although Chinese had the highest incidence of cancer.

Dr Faishal said research showed lifestyle, rather than genetic factors, appeared to be behind such differences.

"In terms of genetics, we do not have significant evidence to (explain) such a phenomenon," he added.

He noted that HPB had worked with the Singapore Muslim Women's Association (PPIS) and mosques to launch a 2014 calendar for Malay women that included healthy recipes, which was received warmly. The number of 2015 calendars was increased tenfold, to 30,000 households.

A version of the calendar targetting Chinese households has also been launched, he added.