Hoe Yeen Nie of Channel News Asia reports that the rate of diabetes in Singapore has risen to a 12-year high, according to the latest national health survey.

11.3% of adults aged between 18 and 69 years are diabetic, compared to 8.2% in 2004 and 9% in 1998.

The survey is done every six years.

There are more smokers too, with a bigger rise among youths.

14.3% of adults smoke daily in 2010, compared to 12.6% in 2004.

16.3% of youths (aged 16 to 29 years) smoke daily in 2010, compared to 12.3% in 2004.

But both high cholesterol and hypertension rates have gone down.

For hypertension, the rate has dropped to 23.5 percent from 26.8% in 2004 while that for high cholesterol has fallen to 17.4% from 19.1%.

Meanwhile the obesity rate stands at 11% now, up from 6.9% in 2004.

Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan hopes to reverse this. One way is to have guidelines to protect children against indiscriminate advertising of unhealthy foods.

But some doctors said this only addresses part of the problem.

Dr Nancy Tan, a paediatrician with SBCC Baby and Child Clinic, said that often, a child picks up eating habits from his or her family. And many of her obese patients also have overweight family members.

“Advertising doesn’t raise awareness. You take away the advertisements but the shops are still there,” she said.

Besides, she noted, “you can have tons of salad with tons of salad cream. It’s how much you eat.”

The Ministry of Health (MOH) also plans to reach out to pregnant women as well as parents of pre-schoolers through pre-schools.

Speaking at the National Health Award on Friday, Mr Khaw noted that “obesity and development are not Siamese twins. The Japanese and the Koreans have remained slim. Their obesity prevalence at 4 percent… is less than half of ours. We must understand their approach and see if it can be adopted here.”

With three in five Singaporeans in the labour force, the workplace is a key battleground.

At Sembawang Shipyard, employees get time off during work for health activities.

There are also programmes catering to the diverse workforce.

Over half of its 2,400 workers are foreign nationals.

Mr Ong Poh Kwee, managing director of Sembawang Shipyard, said: “We have mainland Chinese, we have people from Thailand, people from Myanmar.

“Their interests are not totally the same. The games that the Chinese worker likes will not be the same as the games the Indian worker likes. So we have to cater for this kind of differentiation as well.”

The shipyard also organises activities catering to the interests of younger and older staff as well as married couples.

Thanks to its efforts, its health talks and sports activities see participation rates of at least 75 percent.

Sembawang Shipyard, which is a subsidiary of Sembcorp Marine, also has a fully-staffed medical centre, which does regular health screenings and more importantly, conducts follow-ups especially for those at risk of disease. It also works closely with the nearby Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on mass screenings and other initiatives.

The approach taken by the shipyard is precisely what authorities are trying to achieve in order to promote better health in the workplace.

And on Friday, the shipyard was among 40 companies that received the platinum award – the highest honour – at the Singapore HEALTH (Helping Employees Achieve Life-time Health) Award.

Another 380 companies and individuals were also recognised for their efforts.

Also on Friday, a national tripartite committee released a report calling for more health promotion initiatives for small-and-medium sized companies, and to work with unions and trade associations. The committee comprises representatives from the government, business federations and unions.

Mr Lucas Chow, co-chairman of the National Tripartite Committee on Workplace Health and chairman of the Health Promotion Board, said: “With an increasing ageing population that we have, the chances of people getting into some kind of chronic illness will increase. And if we do not try to arrest the problem as early as you can in the working population, by the time this working population reaches 50, the percentage of chronic illnesses will definitely increase.”


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