SINGAPORE - Countries must be prepared to take decisive action in their fight against diabetes, even if it might prove painful, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Tuesday (Nov 27).
"This means moving fast, as well as having the courage to persevere and do things that may be difficult or painful at times, but are important and beneficial in the long term," he said in his closing remarks at the two-day Ministerial Conference on Diabetes which saw the participation of 12 health ministers from around the world.
He said: "We must try to shape the future of health promotion, prevention and care delivery by experimenting with game-changing concepts and innovations.
"If things do not work out as well as we expected, we will need the courage to quickly change course and relook at how to do better.
"We have seen how health technology rapidly transforms the way we deliver care, from telemedicine to personalised health apps."
The heads of various delegations attending the conference at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront hotel also shared ways in which they were fighting the disease.
Ms Pirkko Mattila, Finland's Minister of Social Affairs and Health, said: "The suffering, disability and lost opportunities due to non-communicable diseases (which includes diabetes) are unacceptable.
"Many evidence-based solutions for NCDs (non-communicable diseases) exist and many commitments have already been made. Their implementation is lagging behind."
Malaysian Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said about half a million people in his country have been screened for diabetes. But he added that it would be regrettable if all that screening does not lead to follow-up action, such as proper treatment for those diagnosed with the disease.
Dr Saia Ma'u Piukala, Tonga's Minister of Health and Public Enterprises, said that in his small Pacific nation it is important that women are convinced of the usefulness of programmes or health messages. Women are highly respected, so without their buy-in, there would be no success.
Dr Yasuhiro Suzuki, Japan's Vice-Minister for Health and chief medical and global health officer, said one strategy is to use wearables, like step trackers, to coach people on how to change their lifestyles.
Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Health, spoke of Singapore's efforts to promote a healthier diet, adding that the median amount of sugar in packaged drinks fell from 9.5 per cent in 2007 to 5.9 per cent last year.
He said: "Unhealthy diet is a key modifiable risk factor for diabetes and other NCDs."