More public policies to support family doctors in push for preventive healthcare: Ong Ye Kung

Family doctors have been earmarked to play a key role under the Healthier SG strategy. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Preventive care, which focuses more on building health as opposed to treating sicknesses, will be Singapore's top priority for the next decade, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (May 23).

With family doctors central figures in this push, Singapore will need public policies to better support family doctors to help the population stay healthy, he said.

"We need to build strong links and referral protocols between family doctors and hospitals, so the latter can better support them, especially for serious and complex cases."

Singapore will need family doctors to offer not just drug prescriptions, but also social prescriptions such as better diet and regular exercise to inculcate good health habits, he added.

The authorities will link them up with community organisers who can deliver such healthy regimes.

Mr Ong was speaking at the 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

He said the authorities will need to encourage people, including healthy ones, to commit to seeing one family doctor regularly and over the long term.

There is also a need for IT systems that share medical records of patients seamlessly across different healthcare settings.

"We live in an era of fascinating medical technology advancement. We need to embrace them," added Mr Ong.

"But the most urgent healthcare policies have got to do with simpler policies that support the humble and essential family doctor."

The Health Ministry had in March announced that the nation will shift away from the traditional focus on illness-based hospital care to a more sustainable way of patient-centred preventive care that will focus on nipping diseases in the bud and keeping people healthy and out of hospital as much as possible.

Family doctors have been earmarked to play a key role under the Healthier SG strategy, which will see each resident here being invited to enrol with one general practitioner or polyclinic doctor of their choice for all their care needs.

Mr Ong said on Monday that non-communicable diseases are on the rise both in Singapore and around the world.

Governments need to make people healthier and prevent them from becoming chronically ill, instead of accepting people getting such illnesses as a given.

"The wave of chronic diseases from unhealthy lifestyles is, in the long term, potentially more challenging than Covid-19 infection waves in the short term," said Mr Ong.

"We need to put more weight on building health, in families and communities, and not limit ourselves only to treating sickness in hospitals and operating theatres."

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