Khoo Teck Puat Hospital publishes book on creating a leaner, fitter workforce

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital staff nurse Liew Han Ming (in green) and other KTPH staff taking part in a 2.4km run in a fitness challenge earlier this month. Mr Liew says exercising at his workplace helped him lose weight. Chicken with brown rice - the def
Chicken with brown rice - the default option - sold at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's Foodfare@KTPH foodcourt. To promote healthy eating, brown rice or noodles at the foodcourt are priced 30 cents less than the white versions, while less sugary drinks are 20 cents to 50 cents cheaper.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital staff nurse Liew Han Ming (in green) and other KTPH staff taking part in a 2.4km run in a fitness challenge earlier this month. Mr Liew says exercising at his workplace helped him lose weight. Chicken with brown rice - the def
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital staff nurse Liew Han Ming (in green) and other KTPH staff taking part in a 2.4km run in a fitness challenge earlier this month. Mr Liew says exercising at his workplace helped him lose weight. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

KTPH's drive to promote healthier diet part of measures to create leaner, fitter workforce

At some foodcourts in Singapore, one may be able to swop white rice for brown at a slight premium, or perhaps at the same price.

But the default option is reversed at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) - diners pay more for white rice.

The same goes for drinks sold at its NTUC Foodfare foodcourt, Foodfare @KTPH, with less-sugar options cheaper than the standard ones. Brown rice or noodles, for instance, cost 30 cents less than the white versions, while less sugary drinks are 20 cents to 50 cents cheaper.

This system was implemented in 2010 to encourage patrons, including staff, to eat more healthily.

And it is paying off. Back in 2010, only 10 per cent of patrons chose healthier options. This year, 65 per cent of them did so, said KTPH's chief operating officer, Ms Yen Tan.

The drive to promote a healthier diet is one of many initiatives spearheaded by KTPH to create a healthy workplace environment.

The positive results thus far have prompted the public hospital to publish a book this month, detailing how it created a leaner, healthier workforce.

The book, titled The Five Pillars Of Health - The Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Experience, is believed to be the first of its kind put out by a public hospital here. It has been distributed to other restructured hospitals, schools, as well as foodcourts and convenience stores.

"If we want to shift the population towards a healthier lifestyle, the workplace is a very important place to start because we spend eight to 10 hours at work," said KTPH chief executive officer Chew Kwee Tiang.

"And if the employer works with the partners who are providing the food and the design (of the food display)... I think we can make a healthy lifestyle happen."

The efforts by KTPH are aligned with a wider movement in Singapore to encourage healthy lifestyles at workplaces.

Last week, the Building and Construction Authority announced that it is collaborating with the Health Promotion Board to develop a new Green Mark scheme - to be launched next year - for buildings that have features like indoor greenery, exercise facilities and healthier food and drink options.

Besides eating healthy, the staff at KTPH also take part in a yearly "fitness challenge". That is where they perform a variety of physical tests, such as sit-ups, push-ups, sit-and- reach and a 2.4km run or 1.6km brisk walk. They are then graded according to their fitness level.

Over the past three years, more than 60 per cent of participants fell in the "fit" to "excellent" categories, said Ms Magdalene Chai, group chief human resources officer for Alexandra Health System, the healthcare group that runs the hospital.

The staff's yearly health screening results have also shown some improvements. The proportion of staff with high blood pressure fell from 8.6 per cent in 2012 to 6.7 per cent last year, and the proportion of those with high cholesterol also dropped from 13.3 per cent to 8.9 per cent in the same timeframe.

More than three-quarters of KTPH's around 4,000 staff underwent last year's health screening.

Staff nurse Liew Han Ming, 23, credited his weight loss to the convenience of exercising at his workplace. The 1.76m-tall man weighed 95kg when he started working at KTPH two years ago, as he had a habit of eating more when stressed.

He then started jogging at the hospital gym and nearby Yishun Park nearly every day and lost 20kg in three months.

Other public hospitals such as Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and the National University Hospital also have exercise classes and encourage healthy eating.

In September last year, SGH worked with the Health Promotion Board on a 12-week programme for low-income workers aged 40 and above who lead sedentary lifestyles. These staff underwent assessments and took part in workouts catered to their needs.

At the end of the programme, 80 per cent of the 250 participants had a healthier body mass index and 88 per cent of those who initially suffered some form of body pain reported improvements.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline 'It's cheaper to eat healthy at this hospital'. Print Edition | Subscribe