Community scheme to fight diabetes expanded

(From left) Madam Tan Siew Hong and her husband, Mr Low Kok Tee, who both have diabetes and are involved in the Health Peers Programme, chatting with CGH senior executive of strategic planning and development Valencia Lim, Health Minister Gan Kim Yon
(From left) Madam Tan Siew Hong and her husband, Mr Low Kok Tee, who both have diabetes and are involved in the Health Peers Programme, chatting with CGH senior executive of strategic planning and development Valencia Lim, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman at the couple's home.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Volunteers will go beyond the east and reach out to residents in the west in coming years

An army of volunteers at the forefront of the war on diabetes will expand their efforts from the eastern part of the country to the west.

The move to broaden the Health Peers Programme was announced yesterday by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong as part of stepped-up measures to tackle diabetes at the community level. About 400,000 people here are diabetic, one-third of whom do not know they are.

The programme involves contacting residents who are diabetic or may be at risk of developing the condition to create awareness of prevention and management.

Launched in January last year by Changi General Hospital (CGH) and the South East Community Development Council (CDC), it is in line with the Health Ministry's war on diabetes, which began in April 2016.

Health Peers, implemented in the Siglap constituency, will be rolled out to East Coast GRC by the year end, and to the west within the next few years, where the National University Health System will work with the South West CDC.

"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," said Mr Gan on the sidelines of an event where he observed the scheme's resident outreach and training session in Siglap.

Over 100 volunteers have been trained by CGH medical professionals to carry out risk assessment surveys, give health tips and encourage residents to go for health screenings. They have reached out to 165 diabetic residents in the Siglap division since the initiative began and identified 254 people who may be at risk of getting the disease.

Bedok South resident Tan Siew Hong, 84, and her husband, Mr Low Kok Tee, 85, are glad for visits to their home by volunteers, who have helped them better manage their condition. "Though our diabetes is already under control, they still advise us to eat more nutritious food," said the retired seamstress, who has been diabetic for over 10 years.

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs and South East District Mayor Maliki Osman said the scheme's effectiveness lies in its ability to establish trust between volunteers and residents.

An initiative to raise awareness about prediabetes has also been started as part of a campaign by students from Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. In prediabetes, the blood glucose level is higher than normal but lower than in Type 2 diabetes.

Adults aged 20 to 39 can register online for a free fasting blood glucose test from two private clinics. For more information and to make an appointment at either clinic, visit www.whatisprediabetes.co

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 21, 2018, with the headline 'Community scheme to fight diabetes expanded'. Print Edition | Subscribe