New multi-agency task force to look at promoting healthier lifestyles

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong speaks at the opening ceremony of World Diabetes Day on Nov 4, 2018. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - A multi-agency task force has been set up to promote healthy lifestyles among Singaporeans, in a move that builds on the nation's ongoing war on diabetes.

The new task force, chaired by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs Amrin Amin, will conduct public consultation sessions from January to May next year to seek ideas on how to encourage Singaporeans to adopt healthy lifestyles.

It will also coordinate health promotion efforts across various public agencies, such as the Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Announcing the task force on Sunday (Nov 4), Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said it will focus on three key areas: changing the environment that people live in, empowering individuals through technology, and engaging communities by delivering better services and programmes.

Speaking at an event to mark World Diabetes Day at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, Mr Gan noted that the Government's "war on diabetes" has provided a strong foundation to do more to promote health.

Apart from rolling out measures to support diabetics since the war on diabetes was declared in 2016, the authorities have worked to make healthier food and drink options more accessible and encourage active lifestyles among Singaporeans, he noted.

Mr Gan cited how there are more than 6,500 food and beverage stalls offering healthier options in their menu as part of a programme by the Health Promotion Board as of June. "Besides improvements in terms of healthier food and more physical activity, we need to better integrate, coordinate and scale up efforts to infuse health into every aspect of Singaporeans' lives," he added.

Healthcare professionals at the event welcomed the new task force.

In particular, the public consultations could yield helpful ground-up ideas on promoting active and healthy lifestyles, which in turn prevent chronic diseases, said Dr Abel Soh, 42, an endocrinologist.

Dr Kevin Tan, president of Diabetes Singapore, which organised the event, said the task force could help coordinate and assess the many overlapping health promotion efforts already put in place by different agencies.

"The ideas are more or less out there; it's just a matter of having a coordinated approach to it, in implementation and in assessing outcomes,"he added.

Besides Mr Amrin, the other members of the task force are senior parliamentary secretaries Baey Yam Keng, Low Yen Ling, Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Sun Xueling.

The day-long event also featured free health screenings, educational talks on diabetes and booth displays of diabetes-related products.

It is held in November every year to commemorate World Diabetes Day, and this year's theme is "The Family and Diabetes".

It provides a timely reminder of the impact diabetes has, not only on patients but also their families, Mr Gan said.

He added that family members play a vital role in supporting diabetic patients and creating an environment that encourages the adoption of healthier lifestyles.

"While each of us has to do our own part by taking responsibility for our own health, we also have to look out for our family members and loved ones," Mr Gan said.

"Every small step matters in making a difference in the prevention or management of diabetes, to prevent further complications."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.