SINGAPORE: There are early indications that efforts in Singapore’s war against diabetes are producing some results, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said in Parliament on Monday (Aug 5).
She was responding to MP for West Coast GRC Patrick Tay who asked for an update on the health campaign that started in 2016, and how successful it has been.
More than 65,000 Singaporeans have been screened for diseases such as diabetes and hypertension in the one-and-a-half years since the health ministry enhanced subsidies for the Screen for Life (SFL) Programme in September 2017, she said.
“This is almost 30 times higher than the number of Singaporeans who have come forward for screening over the preceding 18 months,” she added.
She said that the public healthcare sector has also been conducting more local research to understand the effectiveness and impact of their interventions.
She pointed to a SingHealth research programme to evaluate the effectiveness of a community-based intervention programme in reducing the conversion rate from pre-diabetes to diabetes, called Pre-Diabetes Interventions & Continued Tracking to Ease out Diabetes.
“Data from this study can help us develop evidence-based, scalable and effective interventions for better clinical management and policies,” she said.
Mr Tay asked in response if the ministry would consider a dedicated research centre to consolidate the research on diabetes.
Agreeing that research is important to inform clinical management and policies, Dr Khor said that the ministry will study how appropriate such a research centre would be.
She said that that there is “fair amount” of collaboration among researchers and clinicians across the sector, with funding from various sources.
There needs to be a mapping done in order to understand the range of the research, and the full potential of such a possible research centre, she said.
TACKLING RISK FACTORS
More Singaporeans are becoming physically active, she said, as more than 800,000 Singaporeans’ participated in season four of the Health Promotion Board’s National Steps Challenge, four times that in season one.
Based on the 2018 National Nutrition Survey, Singaporeans’ diets have also improved, she said.
Singaporeans are consuming more unrefined carbohydrates, and unsaturated fat is displacing saturated fat, she said.
Total fat consumed decreased two percentage points between 2010 and 2018, she said. However, she cautioned that sugar and salt intake are still causes for concern.
Singaporeans’ daily sugar intake remains "high" at 60g, with drinks, in particular pre-packaged drinks, being the largest single contributor of sugar, she said. The World Health Organisation’s guideline is to consume up to 25g a day.
The average daily salt intake was 9g in 2018, with 90 per cent of Singaporeans exceeding the recommended intake of 5g per day, she added.
Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health Chia Shi-Lu asked if there are any targets and timelines for the reduction in sugar. In response, Dr Khor said that the ministry will review feedback received through a public consultation on measures to be taken, to reduce sugar.
Dr Chia also asked if the ministry will consider giving more subsidies to diabetes patients, as “not all chronic diseases are created equal”, and such subsidies would probably improve compliance.
Dr Khor said: “As with healthcare affordability issues, the ministry will continue to look into ensuring the affordability of treatment and access for the different conditions, including for diabetes”.
While there are early signs of progress in our war against diabetes, Dr Khor cautioned that Singapore cannot afford to let up on its efforts.
“Many of these initiatives will only achieve the desired health outcomes in the long term. The Government will continue to work with key stakeholders and partners in the public, private and people sectors to sustain our efforts in this war,” she said.