Fireside Chat with Ms. Joanna Chan, Group Director, Programs, Health Promotion Council
GovInsider’s annual flagship event, the Innovation Festival, took a deep dive into the innovations that have not only kept government agencies afloat, but helped create ripples of impact across the finance, sustainability, design and health. This year, the in-person event took place July 13-14, 2022 at the Raffles City Convention Centre, free for public sector officials.
Join us on the Leveraging Innovation for Mental Health panelist was Ms Joanna Chan, Group Director, Programmes, Health Promotion Council. Ms. Chan leads HPB’s Programs Group, the team responsible for helping Singapore citizens change their way of life for the better.
Ms. Chan has over 25 years of experience in the private sector. Prior to joining HPB, she was Vice President of Mobile Services at StarHub, where she oversaw business performance and global accountability for the Singapore-based telecommunications provider.
Can you share the most fulfilling or meaningful project you’ve been involved in recently?
It is important for us to understand that mental well-being is as important as our physical health. We must take active steps to care for mental well-being and seek help when needed. That’s why HPB launched a multi-year ‘It’s OKAY to Reach Out’ campaign last year to encourage Singaporeans to talk about mental health. This is the first national campaign to normalize mental health and wellbeing. This is definitely a key step for us, as mental health has always been a taboo subject that people generally avoid. Therefore, being able to take the first step in sparking conversations in this area is certainly very meaningful to me.
As part of the campaign, a series of radio talk shows in vernacular languages, community dialogue sessions, activity-based workshops and educational webinars were held for Singaporeans to learn more about well-being mental. It is very encouraging to see partners also doing their part to encourage Singaporeans to take care of their mental well-being. For example, the 17 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) co-hosted the community dialogue sessions with us.
What innovative project within government have you been most excited about in the past year? It could be promising digital tools or a new way of working that your organization has implemented.
In November last year, HPB launched a unique online portal, MindSG (MindSG.gov.sg) for national mental health resources to address the challenges Singaporeans have to navigate through numerous online resources on the mental health and well-being.
MindSG was developed in collaboration with nine other Whole of Government Partners (WOG) and brings together content curated by mental health experts, such as doctors and psychologists. It offers Singaporeans credible, reliable and convenient access to resources that can help them look after their own mental well-being, as well as that of their family and friends. It is exciting that so many government agencies are coming together to promote the mental health and wellbeing of Singaporeans.
Since its launch in November 2021, the portal has recorded over 470,000 unique page views. This portal has recently been enhanced to include self-assessment tools and will gradually be enhanced to present more topics to the public.
What do you think is the new frontier that governments should explore more, and how do you think it can change the way governments work or help you better serve citizens?
As our society evolves, the needs of residents also become more varied. A one-size-fits-all solution probably won’t work. We can leverage data and technology to provide personalized nudges based on an individual’s behavior, making our interventions more targeted. For example, the Health Promotion Board worked with Apple on LumiHealth, a program that uses gamification and technology to inspire people to adopt healthy habits through personalized reminders, schedules, activity coaching and more. incentives.
What does the government of the future look like to you?
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Health announced the Healthier SG Strategy for the next 10 years, which will help Singaporeans take action to improve their health. We need to refocus our healthcare strategy to focus on prevention. Together with Healthier SG, we will build an ecosystem that supports a healthy lifestyle and facilitates the achievement of good health for our residents. By focusing more on preventative health, we can move together towards a nation of healthier Singaporeans.
Who or what inspires you?
Singaporeans inspire me because I have seen how they want to take charge of their health.
In the area of physical health, I saw how Singaporeans are using wearable technology to track their daily step counts and activity levels in HPB’s National Steps Challenge. In the field of mental health, we have noticed that there are now more conversations around this topic.
All of this means Singaporeans want to take ownership of their health. It inspires me to continue my role in providing healthy lifestyle options, to encourage even more Singaporeans to adopt healthier lifestyles and habits.
Hear Ms. Chan explain how government leaders are taking the lead in mental wellness strategies, as well as how other government leaders are pushing the boundaries of innovation. Watch the Festival of Innovation, July 13-14, 2022, on-demand by signing up for on-demand readings here.