SINGAPORE: The number of stroke patients living in the central part of Singapore could increase by 109 per cent - or more than double - by 2050 if left unchecked, according to a new report released on Monday (May 13) by the National Healthcare Group (NHG).
The report also highlighted the growing threat of other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, which could grow from 450,000 patients today to 1 million by 2050.
The figures laid out in the report called River of Life: NHG’s Perspectives on Population Health are based on observations of patient numbers at NHG, which runs healthcare institutions in the central cluster, one of three healthcare clusters in Singapore.
NHG's six polyclinics - Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Woodlands, Geylang, Toa Payoh and Yishun - have seen the number of patients with chronic conditions rise by 56 per cent from 2008 to 2017 collectively. Among the top utilisers of its services, between 60 per cent and 80 per cent have a chronic condition, said NHG.
“We're concerned about the increasing numbers of people with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. And this has been a gradually increasing trend, it may have to do with the fact that we are still not very conscious about how we manage our diet and a lack of exercise in general,” said Professor Pang Weng Sun, NHG’s deputy group CEO (Population Health).
“Lifestyle change is a major solution, both that and exercise, and increasingly of course, people who have got illnesses or some of these conditions should have early treatment as well. An early compliance with medication could control their diabetes, could control their hypertension and their cholesterol levels,” Prof Pang added.
NHG said the data gathered in its report will help drive its healthcare strategy, and enable it to provide services that are more customised to the healthcare cluster it serves. The cluster is divided into three zones - the Central zone, Woodlands zone and Yishun zone.
The Central zone spans areas such as Ang Mo Kio, Serangoon, Hougang and Kallang. It is anchored by Tan Tock Seng Hospital and serves a total of 1.4 million residents, making it the largest healthcare population catchment in Singapore. About 17 per cent of residents in this cluster are above the age of 65, compared to the national average of 13 per cent.
The other two zones - Woodlands and Yishun - serve about 800,000 residents who are of a slightly younger profile.
“We’re actually being very targeted in each of the respective zones. So in Central, for example, where Tan Tock Seng (Hospital) is, the population is slightly older … the emphasis is really on taking care of them in this age of frailty. In the north, the populations are slightly younger. And we focus a lot more the preventative and chronic disease management," said Dr Wong Kirk Chuan, chief operating officer (Population Health) for NHG & Woodlands Health Campus.
Another issue of concern is childhood obesity. NHG's report also projects that 15 per cent of Singaporeans will be obese by 2024, up from the current 11 per cent.
The figures underline the importance of tackling at the issue at its root, with children's diets in focus.
NHG said seven in 10 children who were overweight at the age of seven would go on to become obese as adults. Currently, about 10 per cent of five-year-olds are overweight, pointing to the need for early intervention to change dietary habits from as young as the preschool level.
"We have been trying to engage people, children in schools, as well as parents, in terms of how to plan diets for their children. This is something that’s still very much work in progress, but we do realise that mothers do influence their children's choices, and eventually as the children grow up, that habits continue as well," said Prof Pang.