Drink Water campaign among plans by Government to combat diabetes

A Riverside Primary School pupil refilling his bottle at a water cooler.
A Riverside Primary School pupil refilling his bottle at a water cooler. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A "Drink Water" campaign to encourage more people to cut out flavoured drinks, and competitions to promote healthy food preparation and cooking are steps that the Government will be taking to combat diabetes in Singapore.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) outlined these plans as it responded to recommendations, made in January by the inaugural Citizens' Jury, at an appreciation event held at the Lifelong Learning Institute on Saturday (April 14).

The jury, comprising 76 people from different walks of life tasked to come up with ideas on how to prevent and manage diabetes, had made 28 recommendations.

The MOH has accepted 14 of them and is exploring 13.

It said one recommendation to rate hawker centres based on their healthy food options will, however, be difficult to implement at the moment due to the range of food sold.

The other recommendations it has accepted include the formation of a platform that consolidates all diabetes-related materials, diabetes-awareness programmes for children and the engagement of celebrities to promote healthier eating.

The jury had also recommended raising the yearly $400 Medisave limit under the Chronic Disease Management Programme.

 
 
 

The MOH had announced in March during the ministry's Committee of Supply debate that this will be increased to $500 from June.

Of the recommendations that have been placed under consideration, Ms Ngiam Siew Ying, deputy secretary of MOH, said: "Those are the ones that we needed to refine a little bit more... maybe focus the ideas a bit more to see how they can be implemented."

These include limitations on fast food and snack advertisements, and giving out health points and travel rebates to encourage physical activity.

At a question-and-answer session, members of the jury raised several questions on various topics, including the use of steps trackers.

They asked if there have been tangible impacts on health.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said that assessing the outcomes take time.

"You need to track this over time, to know if it has reduced amputations or led to weight loss and so on," she said.

But she assured them that the Government is studying the health benefits of steps trackers.

Others asked about encouraging healthy eating at schools, including selling smoothies to encourage students to eat more fruits.

Dr Khor said there are plans to see how the healthy meals programmes at schools can be further enhanced with prominent messages on healthy eating.

Sheencouraged the jury members to continue to step forward to fight diabetes and to lead some of the new initiatives.

"I hope you will continue to journey with us as we co-develop ideas that will benefit Singapore," she told them.