Making every day a healthy one

GET HEALTHY WITH THE STAIRS: Decals along a staircase at Woodlands, in the Sembawang constituency, encouraging residents to take the stairs instead of the lift. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES


    Mar 31, 2014

    Making every day a healthy one

    MAKING resolutions is a New Year tradition I like to uphold.

    For this year, my personal and professional resolutions are the same - healthy living every day - not just for myself but for Singaporeans as well.

    I am confident that we are on the right track.

    In January, I joined the Health Promotion Board (HPB) in its showcase of the Healthy Community Ecosystem in the Sembawang constituency.

    From covered walkways to healthier food options around the neighbourhood, visual cues to nudge residents to take the stairs instead of the lift, screening within the community and health-promoting schools, the ecosystem is a concerted multi-agency effort to connect the various health-promoting elements seamlessly to give residents easy and convenient access to healthy lifestyle options at their doorsteps.

    So far, the responses to the ecosystem have been positive. A grassroots leader in Sembawang told us that she had a busy staircase after the visual cues were installed, as many of her neighbours took to using the stairs.

    Losing weight and living more healthily are among the most popular New Year resolutions. They are also the most quickly abandoned ones.

    As the obesity trend has been rising in Singapore over the last six years, helping Singaporeans to lose weight and live healthily becomes an important task.

    This month, HPB launched the 1 Million KG Challenge, its most extensive weight-management initiative to date.

    The Challenge reaches out to a broad segment of Singaporeans - those within the healthy weight range, the overweight and the obese. We want to encourage and help those who are already within the healthy weight range to stay there.

    For the overweight and the obese, we want to motivate and help them to start losing weight. With this broad-based approach, we could at least hope to slow down the upward obesity trend.

    The Challenge supports its participants through nudges, incentives and providing an extensive support "ecosystem" for participants.

    For example, participants are "nudged" through SMSes which remind them to weigh themselves and congratulate them when they lose weight. Participants are also incentivised to stay on course through rewards, such as vouchers and free gym passes.

    HPB has set up a support ecosystem comprising online resources, weight management and physical activity programmes, such as iRun and healthy eating workshops. More than 30 industry partners have also joined HPB in the fight against obesity.

    It is through such small nudges that we hope to inspire bigger changes.

    I am happy to see that the Challenge has been well-received. Our fellow Singaporeans have been coming forward to share their weight-management journeys with HPB, and many of these experiences have been inspirational, to say the least.

    Next month, we will be releasing the report on the Healthy Living Master Plan. The report will outline our plans to make healthy living part of daily life.

    In the meantime, let's all continue to take those strides towards living healthily.

    Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim is parliamentary secretary at the ministries of Health and Transport.