SINGAPORE: A new mobile wellness programme has been launched in the opposition wards of Aljunied and Hougang.
The pilot, called the Wellness Bus Programme, is a collaboration between grassroots organisations in the two constituencies and community health cooperative The Good Life. It is also supported by the PAP Community Foundation, as well as the Tote Board.
Launching it on Sunday (Jul 12), Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the new project aims to bring health education and services to the doorstep of residents.
Services at the mobile clinic are open to all residents, for free. Those identified to be at health risk will be enrolled into a year-long membership programme, which costs S$99.
There will be health literacy talks, health checks, vaccinations for seniors as well as chronic disease management and follow-up counselling and monitoring. For seniors who cannot afford the membership fee, the cooperative has set aside a certain number of free memberships.
The buses will also return to each site they have visited on a regular basis. Such regular stops will facilitate follow-up with residents, beyond just a one-off interaction.
When asked why the programme was kicking off in Aljunied and Hougang - which is under opposition Workers' Party - Mr Gan said the pilot is primarily a "ground up initiative" and is in response to feedback from seniors who want mobile access to healthcare facilities.
"The main consideration is a ground-up initiative and we also have many other initiatives in other wards as well," said Mr Gan. "Some of you may know that we have this City for all Ages project. Whampoa, for example, is a very successful one. In Choa Chu Kang, we have a similar programme - we call it Healthy City for All Ages.
"The focus on supporting ageing is on health programmes. We have several programmes ongoing, this is one of them."
Heads of the various PAP branch divisions in Aljunied and Hougang were spotted at the event, which was held in the Serangoon division of Aljunied.
Mr Gan said the latest initiative rides on other programmes to prepare Singapore for an ageing population. They include the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life.
"This is also broadly in line with the Ministry of Health's strategy to bring healthcare services to the community," he said. "We try to help our people to stay healthy through community support, particularly for the seniors.
"We really want to help them stay active and healthy as they grow old, because all of us are growing old, including myself. You have to develop more initiatives and programmes to support ageing, so that they can stay active and healthy."
Chairperson of The Good Life Cooperative, Dr Carol Tan, said the project will be introduced in other constituencies depending on requests by the community. She said, so far, Hong Kah and Choa Chu Kang constituencies have expressed interest.
"The community has come in very strong," she said. "They actually tell us what talks they want. For example, painful knees is a very hot topic, so they tell us and we find the doctors and then we organise the talks.
"I have a lot of doctors who volunteer. Then if the people want and they join us as members, then they join us for a year-long programme, which includes the health talk, the one-to-one coaching and the discounts, or what we call lower-costs, for everything from vaccines, to blood tests, to diapers to supplemental feeds as well."
Residents welcomed the pilot project.
Hougang resident Loke Lai Lin, 65, says she usually travels to Tan Tock Seng for her medical appointments. She looks forwards to a shorter commute, with the mobile clinic.
"We are getting older," she said. "Because of our leg, we cannot walk far, so this bus is very good for us. Now we can walk good, but later on when we cannot walk, we need this at our doorstep."
Nationwide, the project will offer some 800 seniors full health assessments, another 2,000 will get vaccinations and and some 10,000 will be engaged in health literacy programmes.