1. It gives me great pleasure to be here with you to commemorate the annual World Diabetes Day. Diabetes is an international epidemic, impacting the world’s health in a major way. Through the World Diabetes Day, we bring together millions of people every year, in more than 160 countries to raise awareness and strengthen our response to tackle the growing global challenge of diabetes.
Diabetes epidemic – the need to raise awareness
2. Today, 11% of Singaporean adults have diabetes, this figure will grow as our population ages. Diabetes is a major cause of premature death and ill health. It is linked with increased risk of heart disease, strokes, and problems with the kidneys and eyes. Poorly- controlled diabetes may even lead to patients losing their limbs due to life-threatening infections. Each year, 3.2 million deaths in the world are attributed to diabetes. Singapore is not spared. Diabetes is recognised as one of the top ten causes of deaths here.
3. Thus, it is important to raise the awareness of Singaporeans about diabetes, so that all of us can play a part in addressing this challenge. Firstly, diabetes can be prevented. Secondly, complications can be minimised with good diabetes control. Third and lastly, even after the complications of diabetes have occurred, we can still work together to help our patients take control of their health problems to stop them from becoming worse.
Diabetes can be prevented
4. Prevention is better than cure. Type 2 diabetes is a preventable illness and is largely brought on by lifestyle factors that we can change. For example, eating a balanced diet can help us maintain a healthy weight which reduces our risk of developing diabetes and other chronic diseases. Tying in with this year’s theme of diabetes and obesity, physical activity, in particular, can play an important role in the effective management of diabetes. Being physically active also helps to control weight and keeps our heart strong.
5. Research has shown that participating in 150 minutes of physical activity every week would help us greatly in maintaining a healthy weight. Thus, I strongly encourage everyone to do so. Physical activity does not just mean having to go to the gym or running marathons. There are many activities which we can choose from to reach this target. For example, we can be active during our commute home by taking a brisk walk from the MRT station instead of taking the shuttle bus. We can even be active at home by doing household chores like mopping the floor or taking the stairs instead of the lift.
Good diabetes control – early detection and appropriate management
6. Where diabetes has already set in, there is a need to ensure early detection of the condition and have it appropriately managed. Unfortunately, diabetes often goes undetected in Singapore, where one in two diabetics are unaware of their condition. Therefore, I urge Singaporeans to undergo screening early and regularly for chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. As part of the Integrated Screening Programme, invitation letters are sent to Singaporeans aged 40 to 69 years to visit a General Practitioner (GP) enrolled in the Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP) for health screening. The Diabetic Society of Singapore (DSS) has also made it more convenient for people to access diabetic services, by introducing mobile screening services. Through screening, we hope to detect individuals with diabetes early before complications set in.
7. But early detection is only half of the battle won. Good management and control of diabetes is important in preventing complications. Thus, those found to have abnormal screening results or diagnosed with diabetes must follow-up regularly with their doctor.
8. Today, diabetes is already one of the chronic conditions covered under the Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP) and Primary Care Partnership Scheme (PCPS), to make it more affordable for individuals to seek care at GP clinics near to their homes. Recently, my Ministry announced at the National Primary Care Seminar that we are co-developing a Primary Care Masterplan with various stakeholders. We hope that this will further enhance and support chronic care delivery in the primary and community setting.
Individuals can live full and health lives with diabetes
9. Whilst healthcare practitioners play an instrumental role in good diabetes management, we recognise that patients themselves play a pivotal role in the life-long process of diabetes control. By equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills to manage their own condition, they will be empowered to achieve effective management of their diabetes, and continue to live full and healthy lives.
10. I am indeed pleased to note that the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and DSS have been regularly conducting education programmes for both patients and their families. The response for such education programmes has been promising, For example, I understand that over 450 people attended forums and workshops organised by DSS in 2010.
11. In addition, HPB runs the Nurse Educator programme, where patients are taught how to manage their conditions and prevent complications. At the end of each workshop, participants are then tasked to set their own action plan, which are reviewed at the next session. The nurse educators will even follow up with the participants after the programme. This ensures that the patients continue to apply the knowledge and skills learnt in their daily lives. Currently, our polyclinics also run a similar Nurse Educator programme. Moving forward, we hope to expand the programme to the new Community Health Centres to support GPs in their management of patients with diabetes.
12. Families too, play a crucial role in supporting diabetic patients. Thus, I am glad to hear that that DSS also runs two diabetes support groups. With support from a team of volunteers, these groups provide a platform for patients and their families to share their experiences in dealing with diabetes.
13. In conclusion, I would like to thank the Diabetic Society of Singapore and all the other partner agencies, as well as our health professionals and patient advocates for tirelessly championing diabetes awareness and good diabetes management in Singapore.
14. I know you will all continue to do your best in this battle. I wish you all a meaningful World Diabetes Day. Thank you.