SINGAPORE: Small- and medium-size enterprises (SME) will get more support to conduct health programmes from next year under a new S$2-million initiative.
SME Health+, run by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), aims to engage 60,000 workers over 18 months, building on a year-long pilot that ended in September this year.
Singaporeans spend a large portion of their time at work and getting them to lead less sedentary lifestyles is a challenge, said HPB’s director of workplace health & outreach Sim Beng Koon in an interview with Channel NewsAsia on Friday (Dec 8).
HPB’s workplace health programmes aim to engage workers early before they develop chronic diseases by sparking small lifestyle changes; this will help reduce healthcare costs in disease treatment and management down the road, he added.
Additionally, SMEs are an important group to target, said Mr Sim, as they employ the majority of the nation's workforce.
Warees Investments, which has about 30 employees, tapped on HPB’s pilot SME Workplace Health Package earlier this year. Workers went on a 4km walk around Botanic Gardens and along the way, they stopped at various stations to learn simple exercise routines and how to prepare healthier food.
“The activity helped us become more aware of how to do simple and light activities at home and it also created an interest in staff to prepare healthy meals," said Ms Zarena Mator, strategic assistant to management at Warees.
Building on the pilot, the new initiative will offer SMEs a range of packages from health screening to weight management. It will run alongside existing HPB programmes such as the Healthy Workplace Ecosystem, which also caters to SMEs.
Overall spending on workplace health programmes, including fitness activities and nutrition talks, has increased by about 15 per cent each year since 2014, from S$4 million, HPB said.
“We have some measured success, there's still a long way to go, we still have a lot to do … Today, there is first a higher awareness of the need to keep healthy especially when you are productively engaged. Secondly, with all the activities we are doing today, I think we have a certain amount of success in making healthy programmes as pervasive as possible," said Mr Sim.
HPB keeps an eye on its programmes by tracking changes in behaviour such as whether workers are choosing healthier meal options and how much they are exercising.
They also compare health screening results of participants to see if their BMI has decreased or if they have gotten a better blood glucose reading after getting health coaching.