Launch of wellness hub with enhanced health screenings and support for mothers and young children

Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo during a tour of the Temasek Foundation Integrated Maternal and Child Wellness Hub. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - If you are a mother bringing your infant to the Punggol Polyclinic for a vaccination, don't be surprised if a nurse asks if you would like developmental screenings for your child as well, or some reading materials on child nutrition.

Mothers and their young children can now benefit from a first-of-its-kind programme at the Punggol Polyclinic that provides enhanced health screening services and holistic care.

The Temasek Foundation Integrated Maternal and Child Wellness Hub was officially launched on Tuesday (Jan 21) by Second Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo.

This is a programme that aims to ramp up existing services offered by polyclinics such as immunisation and basic health checks by extending enhanced child developmental screening, growth monitoring, nutrition and lactation support, and screening for postnatal depression in mothers.

Launched last July as a three-year pilot, the programme is a collaboration between KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), SingHealth Polyclinics and Temasek Foundation, with the latter committing $2.56 million to it.

Specialists from KKH have trained Punggol Polyclinic nurses and health educators to enhance their knowledge on postnatal depression in women, child development, as well as infant and young child nutrition and growth. The healthcare staff have also been trained to conduct additional developmental assessments for children to improve early detection, so that early intervention support can be offered.

Since the start of the programme to Dec 31 last year, 1,697 children received their developmental screenings at nine, 18 and 30 months old. This helped to detect potential developmental delays in 200 children, who were referred for another assessment and intervention.

During the same period, 1,126 mothers were screened for post-natal depression screening in the three months after they gave birth, and with 28 cases detected.

According to KKH, about one in 10 women in Singapore suffer from postnatal depression, including milder forms that do not need medical intervention.

The hub can provide these women with postnatal depression counselling and referral to specialists for more help.

Professor Ivy Ng, group chief executive officer of SingHealth which runs Punggol Polyclinic, said: "The key objectives of the programme are to enable early detection of developmental delays and deliver holistic and integrated intervention for children and parents, build on the capability of the polyclinic and community organisations in child health, and create awareness of child development, wellness and parenting."

The hub's services are available to women who have given birth in the past three months, and children aged 0 to 30 months who get their developmental check-ups and vaccinations at Punggol Polyclinic. Only Singaporean and permanent residents are eligible.

The hub will benefit up to 5,000 pairs of mother and children during its pilot run.

If it proves successful, the programme may roll out to other polyclinics.

Madam Radina Roslan, 37, has been visiting Punggol Polyclinic for her 21-month-old baby's vaccination appointments since 2017. She was told about the new programme by one of the nurses and has been a participant since July last year.

Said Madam Roslan: "My daughter underwent the ninth and 18th month developmental screenings. I had a few questions on her high activity level and they were answered by the health educators during the screenings. With my two other children, I had to Google such questions and find the answers on my own, but these consultations enabled me to get my answers on the spot. This programme will be especially helpful for first-time mothers."

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