SINGAPORE: About 20 per cent, or 8,500 people, of 44,000 who used the Government’s diabetes risk assessment tool were found to be at higher risk for the disease.
Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat was responding to a question in Parliament by Member of Parliament (MP) for Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC) Seah Kian Peng.
Currently, the Government has a national screening programme in order to detect and address chronic diseases such as diabetes. Those over 40 years of age are encouraged to get themselves screened for the disease every three years.
But Mr Chee said age is not the only risk factor for diabetes, which is why the Government launched the risk assessment tool in September to encourage those between 18 and 39 years old to also assess their risk.
The tool comprises a series of questions including the height and weight of the user and the amount of exercise he or she gets each week. Based on the information, the online tool tabulates the risk level for diabetes.
Mr Chee said similar tools have been introduced in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.
“Those assessed to be at a higher risk will be advised to go for diabetes screening and follow-up consultations with doctors,” he said.
“We believe the DRA (diabetes risk assessment) is a useful tool to enhance the effectiveness of our screening efforts, but we would need to collect more data over time to analyse its impact and effectiveness,” Mr Chee said.
Separately, Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera and Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin asked about the social determinants of diabetes, including whether the ministry could provide a breakdown of the prevalence of diabetes by income groups.
To this, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin said data on diabetes incidence by income level is not available.
“However, studies in other countries have shown that those in the lowest income group tend to have a higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes,” Mr Amrin said.
“We expect a similar trend in Singapore,” he said.
Mr Amrin said the Government’s priority is to help Singaporeans “from all walks of life” to live healthily. This includes eating healthily, exercising regularly and attending regular screenings. Still, efforts are ongoing to reach out to lower-income households, he said.
The Health Promotion Board is working with the Food Bank Singapore to distribute food bundles with healthier alternatives such as whole grain staples and healthier oils. The food bundles are donated by corporate donors to needy families, Mr Amrin said.