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More ammunition for Singapore’s fight against diabetes

SINGAPORE — A year after he declared war on diabetes, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Thursday (March 9) unveiled broad measures by his ministry to “go the distance” in the long battle against the disease as he rallied Singaporeans to take charge of their health.

Launch of the "Health Fiesta: Let's Be Healthy — Say No to Diabetes" at Tampines. Photo: Tampines Malay Activity Executive Committees

Launch of the "Health Fiesta: Let's Be Healthy — Say No to Diabetes" at Tampines. Photo: Tampines Malay Activity Executive Committees

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SINGAPORE — A year after he declared war on diabetes, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Thursday (March 9) unveiled broad measures by his ministry to “go the distance” in the long battle against the disease as he rallied Singaporeans to take charge of their health.

Health promotion and disease prevention were key themes of the Ministry of Health’s debate on its budget on Thursday in Parliament. Mr Gan and his colleagues — Ministers of State Lam Pin Min and Chee Hong Tat — announced plans to get Singaporeans to eat healthier, go for screening, and take good care of their kidneys. The Government will support them through enhanced subsidies for screening, by investing S$20 million to encourage the development of products with healthier ingredients, and by introducing a new diabetes risk-assessment tool.

To encourage more Singaporeans to go for screening and a follow-up visit at clinics participating in the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas), there will be enhanced subsidies from Sept 1 for the Screen for Life programme — which allows eligible Singaporeans to undergo recommended screening tests for diabetes, high cholesterol, colorectal cancer, and others. 

Eligible Singaporeans will be able to go for screening and their first follow-up consultation (if needed) for S$5 — much less than the S$10 to S$30 that Singaporeans not on Chas or those covered by the Pioneer Generation Package can expect to pay for each test now. Chas cardholders pay S$2, and pioneers will not have to pay. 

By bundling the screening and the first consultation, MOH wants to cut the number of people who fail to follow-up with a doctor after screening, Mr Chee said.

From September, MOH will also roll out a diabetes risk-assessment tool, which is a self-administered questionnaire to help those aged 18 to 39 to assess their risk for undiagnosed diabetes.

It will be available online on the HealthHub website.

Mr Chee also announced that the public sector will cater healthier food at all its events and training courses from next month. This means more whole-grain options, fewer deep-fried items, and the offering of plain water and fresh fruits.

From July, HPB will invest S$20 million over three years on the Healthier Ingredient Development Scheme, to provide funding support for food manufacturers to innovate and develop tasty products with healthier ingredients, such as incorporating more whole grains and using healthier cooking oils. 

The Government will expand a chronic kidney disease programme that employs kidney-protective medication for suitable patients and helps them to identify and control risk factors that contribute to the disease, which is a complication of diabetes.

Mr Gan lauded efforts by the community and companies in disease prevention, and urged everyone to practise the three “Rs” in their diet: They should refrain from or reduce consumption of unhealthy food, or replace them with healthier alternatives. “These are secrets to healthy living,” he said. “The war on diabetes will not be a quick battle … We need to fight the war on the ground one day at a time, one battle at a time, and even one person at a time.”

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