Employers have big role to play in cancer fight

Pedestrians crossing a road at Shenton Way.
Pedestrians crossing a road at Shenton Way.PHOTO: ST FILE

We read with interest Ms Mary Chan Pheck Li's letter about integrating healthy plans into the workplace, especially in the context of increasing cancer rates ("Work healthy plans into our jobs"; last Thursday).

Her sentiments echo ours at Singapore Cancer Society (SCS). We, too, observe with increasing concern the rising rates of cancer in Singapore, and are advocating the adoption of healthy living and working practices to minimise cancer and maximise life. For this reason, SCS strongly encourages raising cancer awareness and promoting cancer prevention as part of every organisation's workplace health initiatives.

SCS actively reaches out to provide cancer talks and offer Pap smear and faecal immunochemical test (FIT) cancer screening, at no charge. We are in contact with the Singapore Business Federation and the American Chamber of Commerce to encourage their members to avail themselves of our programmes and services and to eat healthily, exercise regularly, and be tobacco-free.

SCS aims to prevent cancer or reduce its impact through early screening to improve treatment outcomes. This doesn't just make medical sense but economic sense too: A healthy cancer-free workforce is better able to perform without having to cope with work stoppage or leave of absence due to sickness or treatment.

However, when cancer is diagnosed, employers have an important role to play in supporting affected staff. Although more Singaporeans are living with cancer and surviving cancer, they still face attitudinal challenges at work.

Employers can help to foster greater acceptance, knowledge, and inclusiveness by providing opportunities for cancer patients and survivors to reintegrate into the workforce and be gainfully employed when they are medically fit to work.

We focus on providing physical, occupational, emotional and psycho-spiritual support. SCS will be launching a Return-to-Work programme for recovering cancer patients at the new SCS cancer rehabilitation centre (opening in September at JEM mall).

This involves adopting creative solutions, such as flexi-hours and job redesignations for staff impacted by cancer.

We are partnering institutions to tailor programmes to facilitate the retraining of recovering cancer patients. These efforts will build confidence and integrate cancer patients and survivors into an inclusive and supportive work environment.

We hope employers of low-income workers will take note of our Cancer Care Fund for newly diagnosed patients. Information on our welfare aid schemes can be found at www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg

Employers have an important part to play in minimising cancer and maximising life. SCS stands ready to partner organisations and the Government to promote a cancer-free working environment.

Albert Ching
Chief Executive Officer
Singapore Cancer Society

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2015, with the headline 'Employers have big role to play in cancer fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe