Why It Matters

Joining hands in diabetes war

Since the war on diabetes was declared by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in April last year, the Government has been coming up with various ideas to fight the ailment. Its latest tactic is to source ideas by forming a Citizens' Jury of 75 people.

The unprecedented move by the Health Ministry in engaging the public aims to come up with practical solutions to prevent and manage the chronic disease, which affects one in nine adults here.

With the jury, ordinary citizens will consider various ideas from the people and decide on what is best for the community by consensus or majority opinion. While a ministry official will facilitate the discussions, it will be up to the participants to pin down their final recommendations.

The ministry will provide a response to the jury's recommendations, which will be considered by the National Diabetes Prevention and Care Taskforce for potential implementation.

Rarely has the public been given the chance to be so intimately involved in decision-making at the policy level. But the jury's task is not easy. Several major initiatives were announced or rolled out this year, such as subsidised health screening and getting major soft drinks companies to lower their sugar content.

The jury, however, has a few advantages.

Its members are not paid for their efforts. Four weekend sessions, each lasting from 9am to 5.30pm, have been scheduled and the first took place last Saturday. As no money is involved, they would be motivated to speak freely and brainstorm seriously for good ideas, especially after investing so many hours of their personal time.

Also, with diabetic patients and doctors among the jury members, the jury would have first-hand experience of the problems faced.

No less important is that ideas from the man in the street often stand a better chance of being accepted and, in turn, followed by ordinary people. After all, overcoming diabetes requires the wider society to get on board with new schemes or to willingly change their lifestyle habits.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline 'Joining hands in diabetes war'. Print Edition | Subscribe