The need for a Healthier SG is urgent. This dozy writer agrees.

Here’s the truth: This writer finds it hard to concentrate while watching Parliament sittings, especially those sessions after lunch.

Because food coma – the direct result of a carb-laden meal that gives a momentarily spike before your head comes dangerously close to the pillow.

That said, yours truly was jolted back to life during Health Minister Ong Ye Kung’s Committee of Supply speech, where he outlined the importance and urgency of the Healthier SG strategy.

Particularly the part when he said: “There is urgency to this, because in the next 10 years, long after the Covid-19 dust has settled, we will have to tackle our biggest healthcare challenge since our nation began – the deteriorating health of the population.”

The numbers, like love handles, don’t lie

“The deteriorating health of the population.”

Now, this writer is no fitness nut – that’s because he feels (operative word) relatively healthy and don’t see any point in going for a check up.

Kinda like what Minister Ong noted in his speech.

“When I was younger, in my 30’s and 40’s, you feel almost invincible, you will never fall sick. I didn’t feel the need to take care of my health too,” he said.

Then he discovered he has high cholesterol and a very small calcium deposit in one of his heart arteries. And consequently, he was told to cut down on seafood.

No prawns? Yours truly isn’t sure if it’s possible to ever quit loving those juicy crustaceans.

The point is: everyone succumbs to the relentless march of time and is a matter of time when we grow old and become more susceptible to illnesses. It’s not exactly news that Singapore is an ageing society.

Currently, about one in seven residents in Singapore are seniors aged 65 and above. And by 2030, gasp, that number goes to one in five!

To compound matters, Singaporeans are getting less healthy. The numbers, like love handles, don’t lie.

  • High blood pressure: From about two in 10 in 2017 to three in 10 in 2020
  • High cholesterol: From about three in 10 in 2017 to four in 10 in 2020
  • Obesity rate: From under 9 per cent in 2017 to over 10 per cent in 2020

Stats that make Healthier SG even more urgent.

What’s Healthier SG?

In a nutshell, broadly speaking, Healthier SG is a whole of community initiative to prevent diseases and keep people out of hospitals as much as possible.

After all, in the Health Minister’s words, he’s running a Ministry of Health and not a Ministry of Sickness.

Healthier SG consists of five components:

  • Activating network of family physicians – Transforming primary care to be an important pillar of our healthcare system
  • Care Plans – Following up with a family physician on preventive health plans, including regular screening and addressing risk factors
  • Community partnerships – Building an integrated health and social ecosystem to support residents
  • National Healthier SG Enrolment – Enrolling with a family physician as the first line of care
  • Necessary support structures – Manpower, financing and IT structures and policies to support healthcare reform

The first point on tapping on General Practitioners (GPs) is probably the biggest reform for the Ministry of Health. Minister Ong noted that people who go to only one family doctor consistently, are generally healthier, with fewer visits to the emergency department and fewer episodes of hospital stays.

Describing GPs as “nodes of trust”, Minister Ong added: “We can leverage GPs to attend to more patients, not for coughs and colds, but devoting time to provide preventive care.”

Prevention is always better than cure

The preventive nature of Healthier SG is quite pronounced: From its Care Plans, social prescriptions like a qigong class, to national Healthier SG enrolment programme, prevention is of utmost concern.

While the government will continue to subsidise and make healthcare affordable, healthcare costs are increasing and the government must continue to make every cent count.

And preventive care will achieve a win-win: people get healthier, keeping healthcare expenditure affordable for all.

“Because as the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure.'” said the Health Minister.

Indeed, this writer will heed the minister’s advice and cut down on sugar, salt and fat, so that the body remains upright and not prostrate on the bed.

Especially during Parliamentary sessions.

Cover photo credit: Luah Jun Yang on Unsplash, Active SG and MOH