SINGAPORE - An army of volunteers at the forefront of Singapore's war against diabetes will eventually expand their efforts from the eastern part of the country to the western region.
This is part of stepped-up measures to tackle diabetes at the community level, announced on Saturday (Jan 20) by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
Under the Health Peers Programme, volunteers reach out to residents who are diabetic or may be at risk of the condition, to create awareness of diabetes prevention and management.
The programme, launched in January last year by Changi General Hospital (CGH) and the South East Community Development Council (CDC), is being implemented in the Siglap constituency and will be rolled out to East Coast GRC by the end of this year.
It will also branch out to the west, with the National University Health System partnering the South West CDC to launch it within the next few years.
Mr Gan said: "The War on Diabetes is going to be a long journey and we need to have a sustained effort...community initiatives and motivation are very important."
He was speaking on the sidelines of an event where he observed the programme's resident outreach and training session in Siglap.
Since last January, volunteers have reached out to 165 diabetic residents in the Siglap division and also identified 254 residents who are at risk of developing diabetes.
The volunteers are trained by a team of medical professionals from CGH, such as a sports medicine physician, dietician, and clinical psychologist.
The volunteers carry out risk assessment surveys, provide tips on healthier habits and encourage residents to attend health screenings.
More than 100 volunteers, comprising grassroots leaders and nursing students from ITE (Institute of Technical Education) College East, have been trained so far.
Madam Tan Siew Hong, 84, and her 85-year-old husband are glad to receive visits from the volunteers, who have helped them to adopt a healthier diet to better manage their diabetes.
"Though our diabetes is already in control, they still advise us to eat more nutritious food," said the retired seamstress, who has had the disease for more than 10 years.
Volunteer Yogeswari Chandrasekaran, 31, who also helped to design the surveys, said the results make the hard work of going door-to-door worth it.
"Some residents are very complacent about getting diabetes, but when you explain the complications and real cases of other residents in the neighbourhood who are suffering from diabetes, it helps them to gain more insights," said the case manager at a psychiatric home.
Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, who is also Mayor of the South East District of Singapore, said the effectiveness of the programme lies in its ability to establish trust between volunteers and residents.
The programme is in line with the Ministry of Health's War on Diabetes, which started in April 2016.
An estimated 400,000 people here have diabetes, and one third of them do not know they have the condition.
Besides the Health Peers Programme, an initiative to spread awareness of prediabetes has been started as part of a campaign by undergraduates from Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.
Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but lower that in Type 2 diabetes.
Adults aged between 20 and 39 can register online on a first-come-first-serve basis for a free Fasting Blood Glucose test from one of two private clinics, Zenith Medical Clinic and Trucare Medical Clinic and Surgery.
They can make an appointment at either of the clinics from Jan 22 to March 16 by registering at www.whatisprediabetes.co.