Nutrition class and vegetable tour served up to help families eat healthier

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin (in aqua), Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Low Yen Ling (in purple) and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (in white) touring Kok Fah Technology Farm on July 28, 2019. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SINGAPORE - Butcher Muhammad Mohamed Hussain and his family of five attended a nutrition class and went on a tour of hydroponic vegetables at Kok Fah Technology Farm on Sunday (July 28) to learn how to eat healthier.

"My family and I can try the healthy cooking and use more brown rice noodles," said 41-year-old Mr Muhammad, whose mother and wife are both diabetic.

The event was a preview of the HealthySG programme that will be launched next year to give people incentives to complete healthier living activities.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin called the programme a "potential game changer"for families who might need more support.

"These groups do not have as good (health) outcomes ... I think we can do better in the area of nutrition, in terms of ensuring that supermarket tours are targetted to their budget and taste," he added.

These families will be supported by trained ambassadors from the Health Promotion Board with progress in the programme monitored through surveys.

But time and accessibility are important considerations for participants.

"The programme is good and I would go for it again if I have the time," said Mr Muhammad, who has four children aged between one and eight.

Mr Lau Joo Choon, 46, said the activities on Sunday made him and his family more aware of choosing products with the Healthier Choice logo.

"It's a bit difficult to get here (the farm), so if there's no transport, we wouldn't come here often," noted Mr Lau, who has a daughter, eight, and a son of seven months.

Sociology professor Tan Ern Ser thinks the programme will enhance awareness of healthy lifestyles, but whether that will translate into actual practice is another question.

"My view is that it is unlikely to be sustainable at the level of individuals, and at the level of the agencies involved, my sense is that such initiatives tend to be short-lived as they entail sustained enthusiasm and resources over time and changes in personnel," noted Prof Tan, who is from the National University of Singapore.

"If we can raise (the number of) healthy lifestyle ambassadors among low-income residents, as well as involve more people from each households, there would be a higher chance of sustainability (because of the) social support and a supportive environment, together with the easy availability and affordability of healthy food options."

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