Budget debate: the Ministry of Health launches targeted measures for subgroups to improve the health of the population

SINGAPORE – To improve overall health, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will put in place targeted measures to support and uplift various sub-groups including mothers, families, minorities and the elderly.

The Straits Times looks at some of these initiatives.

1. Improve maternal health

Increased support will be given to the mental well-being of women during and after their pregnancy, as this would be crucial for the health of the child.

Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary told Parliament on Wednesday March 9 during his ministry’s debate that a local study, Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes, found that maternal mental well-being during pregnancy could affect fetal brain development, leading to mood or anxiety disorders later in life.

The study found that about 7.2% of pregnant women had high depressive symptom scores during pregnancy. The proportion increases to 10% during the first three months postpartum.

KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and National University Hospital will strengthen their support for the mental well-being of pregnant women and mothers by expanding accessibility to prenatal (during pregnancy) and postnatal mental health screening.

The Department of Health will also improve early intervention and support for more women who are screened as being at risk for depressive symptoms.

The Women’s Health Committee, chaired by Ms. Rahayu Mahzam, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, is planning an event on women’s health this year to raise awareness about women’s health to maximize awareness among different segments of the population. feminine. More details about the event will be shared later.

2. More support for families

Integrated health services for mothers and children will be available in 14 polyclinics over the next three years.

These health services include screening for postnatal depression and breastfeeding support when taking their child for vaccinations and child development screening at polyclinics.

Two pilot programs were launched at Punggol Polyclinic and Yishun Polyclinic in 2019, benefiting over 10,000 children and mothers.

In addition to integrating mother and child services, more holistic support for children and their families can be provided through a family support programme.

Known as Family Nexus, some health and social services can be provided under one roof at four sites in Choa Chu Kang, Punggol, Sembawang and Tampines this year.

These sites could be a polyclinic, GP clinic or social service agency office. Some programs include breastfeeding and lactation support services, body mass index and growth assessment checks for young children, and caregiver training.

3. Promote healthier lifestyles among Malay and Indian communities

To promote healthier lifestyles among these ethnic minorities, the Ministry of Health will work with Malay and Indian community leaders and partners.

A task force was formed last year by the Ministry of Health to improve the health of ethnic minority groups here. It aimed to design culturally relevant programs and help rally the community against unhealthy habits.

Giving an update on the programme, Ms Rahayu said the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has brought together experienced community leaders with the necessary expertise to form a Malay Community Outreach (MCO) task force.

There are five new sub-committees focusing on mental wellbeing, reducing smoking, improving eating habits, increasing physical activity and health screening within the Malay community, a she added.

The MCO will work with various parties to effectively expand the reach of SPB programs.

Health promotion activities for the Indian community will also be rolled out, she added.

For example, HPB has worked with key stakeholders like the Indian Development Association of Singapore to leverage culturally significant programs and events like Deepavali to strengthen healthy cooking.

HPB is also actively engaging Indian food and beverage outlets to participate in the Healthier Dining Program, which rewards customers for choosing healthy options.

She pointed out in parliament last year that in 2020, 14.4% of Malaysians and 14.2% of Indians had diabetes, compared to 8.2% of Chinese.

Additionally, 37.5% of Malaysians and 36.1% of Chinese have higher blood pressure, compared to 29.5% of Indians.

4. Support seniors to age well

To enable seniors to improve and maintain their health, a holistic program that includes physical, mental and social well-being will be developed and implemented by HPB and the People’s Association.

The program, called “Live Well, Age Well”, will be gradually rolled out across the country from May, according to a “hub and spoke” model.

It will be offered at designated community centres, residents’ corners, aged care centers and faith-based organizations, depending on the profile of residents and clients.

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