Report on cardiovascular diseases recommends focusing on preventive care

(From left) Professor Tan Huay Cheem, director of the National University Heart Centre, Singapore; Associate Professor Angelique Chan, executive director of the Centre for Ageing, Research & Education, Duke-NUS Medical School; Dr Kenneth Sim, Bayer Pharmaceuticals Division country medical director for Malaysia/Singapore/Brunei; and Mr Kelvin Tan Cheng Kian, director of corporate partnerships for NUS Enterprise, at the launch of the report. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Asia-Pacific countries should move away from an acute care model to a preventive one, to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, a new report says.

The Healthy Hearts, Healthy Ageing Asia Pacific Report also recommends better access to innovative therapies and technologies, and highlights the need for more data to understand the current disease burden and plan for the future.

The report was released on Thursday (June 27) by pharmaceutical company Bayer and the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS), NUS Enterprise.

It is based on expert insights from Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

It noted that Singapore has been embracing the recommended step-down care model, where patients can leave the main hospitals to recuperate in facilities once they have been stabilised after a heart attack or stroke.

For example, between 2017 and 2020, the Government plans to add 4,200 nursing home beds, 2,200 daycare places and 2,500 home-care places.

Professor Tan Huay Cheem, director of the National University Heart Centre, Singapore, said that governments across the world have very important roles to play in cardiovascular disease prevention.

"The first is to provide evidence-based, cost-effective care; secondly, put in place legislative measures like raising the legal age of smoking or reducing the sugar content in beverages," he added. "Lastly, governments should work towards improving the general economic health of the population, because that will effectively eliminate some of the disease of poverty."

The report's launch was officiated by Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor at the Innovfest Unbound 2019 festival, held at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. The event ends on Friday.

Some 15,000 entrepreneurs, brands, corporates, investors and technology start-ups are expected to attend the festival.

Dr Khor said that because the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease are behavioural in nature, the goal is to tackle behavioural risk factors earlier in life.

Besides promoting physical activity, as well as offering healthier food to consumers, the Government is also looking at innovating Singapore's infrastructure and city design.

"The Land Transport Master Plan 2040, for example, envisions a land transport system that is safer and healthier, filled with vibrant community spaces," she said. "You can expect more walking and cycling paths, more sheltered linkways, and lower noise levels from public transport."

Another way is to apply behavioural science in policies, programmes and services, such as using simplified labels or healthier choice defaults to nudge consumers toward healthier choices.

Bayer has also launched a disease management app for elderly atrial fibrillation patients - who have a chronic heart rhythm disorder associated with increasing age - and their caregivers.

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