Low-income groups to get targeted help for healthier lifestyles

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Residents from Choa Chu Kang at a zumba session at Choa Chu Kang Park, on Dec 16, 2018. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - They tend to have carb-heavy diets which increase their chance of diabetes. While trying to make ends meet, they also may not have enough time to exercise and cook for themselves.

This is why a government taskforce has decided to focus on lower-income groups to help more of them adopt healthier lifestyles, said its chair, Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs, on Sunday (Dec 16) on the sidelines of a Health Promotion Board (HPB) event, Sundays at the Park.

The HealthySG Taskforce will have tailored policies and programmes to help these Singaporeans, and Mr Amrin said the policies must be financially sustainable and relevant to their needs.

He said: "The current programmes are targeted at the general population so we're looking to see how we can better reach out to them. I think there's more scope to better sharpen the focus to ensure the message gets to the people who need it the most.

"These are vulnerable groups. By this I mean groups with poorer health outcomes who may be under-reached, who may not have access to the channels of communication that we use currently."

The multi-agency taskforce, which was formed last month, will work with community partners to guide families to purchase healthier foods and prepare healthier meals at home. It will also work with donors to fund or prepare food donation packs with healthier options.

Besides giving more help to vulnerable groups of Singaporeans, the taskforce also identified a second area of focus after its first meeting on Nov 22. This would be to look into solutions to better integrate healthy living using technology and the environment.

This includes providing timely health information and reminders through technology and exploring the greater use of Singapore's built environment for healthier lifestyles such as stair-climbing as a form of exercise in neighbourhoods.

He added that comprehensive changes and integrated solutions are needed to tackle health issues like obesity, which he said is a complex matter.

"Healthy living is not just about the individual. It's about the environment we live in, the social factors, the economic factors. So we'd like to study this a bit deeper to see how we can better make healthy living an integral aspect of our lives," he said.

The HealthySG Taskforce was first announced early last month at an event to mark World Diabetes Day.

In a media release on Sunday, the Ministry of Health said the taskforce recognises that more needs to be done to customise its mainstream health promotion efforts to individuals from disadvantaged groups.

It noted that with more tailored and targeted "service delivery and programmes on the ground, disadvantaged groups can be empowered to live healthier lifestyles and improve their health in the long term".

The taskforce also aims to reduce smoking rates and will explore creative ways to incentivise and nudge smokers to quit the habit.

It will hold public consultations from January to May to seek views and suggestions from the public, professionals and experts to help transform its health promotion efforts so that healthy living will become the norm for every Singaporean.

The taskforce's other members include Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Culture, Community, and Youth Baey Yam Keng and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development and Education Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

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