Speech by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health, at the Opening Ceremony of The Eurasian Colorectal Technology Association Biennale Conference, 7 November 2013

Dr Francis Seow Choen, President, Eurasian Colorectal Technology Association (ECTA) and all councillors,

Dr Ho Kok Sun, Chairman, Local Organising Committee,

Presidents & members of all the National Colorectal Surgical Societies of Europe and Asia,

Distinguished guests and delegates,



1          I am pleased to be here at the 3rd Biennial Conference of the ECTA and welcome all our international delegates to Singapore. I was told that we have more than 250 delegates from 36 countries.

2          ECTA draws colorectal surgeons from Europe and Asia and fosters closer international collaboration. This meeting enables our medical professionals to stay current with the latest developments in the field, including research, innovations, new techniques and training methods.


Burden of colorectal cancer

3          This 3rd conference bears the theme of “New technologies in Colorectal Surgery”. Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in males and the second most common cancer in females in Singapore. More than 8,500 new cases of colorectal cancer have been diagnosed over the last 5 years. Colorectal cancer was also the second leading cause of cancer death among males and the third leading cause of cancer death among females during the same time period. With the ageing of Singapore’s population, it can be expected that the numbers will increase.

4          Results from the National Health Survey showed that only 10.3% of Singapore residents aged 50-69 years had a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) within the past one year and 12.3% had a colonoscopy within the past ten years. Of the total resident population aged 50-69 years, only slightly more than one in five (27.8%) Singapore residents reported ever having a FOBT. There is a need to increase the awareness of colorectal cancer and to encourage colorectal cancer screening where indicated to enable earlier detection. We have introduced the National Colorectal Cancer Screening Programme in July 2011. To encourage uptake of screening, we have also provided subsidies, and permitted the use of Medisave for screening colonoscopies.


Healthy Living Master Plan (HLMP)

5          Screening is only for detection of colorectal cancers. We must go further upstream and identify risk factors to prevent colorectal cancers. We know that a sedentary lifestyle and low-fibre, high-fat diet are risk factors for colorectal cancer. Good lifestyle habits, such as sufficient physical activity, eating a high fibre diet with more vegetables and fruit, and maintaining ideal body weight helps and not just for colorectal cancer. It decreases one’s risk factors for many other conditions too, for example, diabetes and heart disease. Prevention is always better than cure. We constantly encourage healthy living and healthy choices in life.

6          The Singapore Government earlier this year announced the formation of the Healthy Living Master Plan (HLMP) which I am spearheading. This master plan strives for a healthy lifestyle to be part of the natural behaviour of all our citizens. The strategies revolve around the 3 Ps – Place, People and Price.  “Place” refers to the development of an accessible and conducive physical environment for a healthy lifestyle. “People” refers to nurturing a socially inclusive community where everyone is aware and uses the access to healthy opportunities. “Price” refers to ensuring affordable healthy options so that healthy living is within the reach of everyone.

7          As colorectal surgeons, you are well-placed to contribute to prevention and a healthy lifestyle by being good role models and advisors to your patients and their families, and the community. Constantly reminding and encouraging your patients to exercise and to eat healthily will help to spread the message and achieve better health for the community.


The rapidly changing world of medical technology

8          The cost of healthcare was raised as a concern during the public consultations that we held as part of the Healthy Living Master Plan. While improved technology, techniques and new innovations help us perform better treatments and procedures we also note that professionalism means that you are also mindful of the costs to patient and ultimately to the nation. I am therefore pleased to note that ECTA has the motto of “advancing the right use of technology and discouraging the abuse of inappropriate technology”. This is highly commendable. We are reminded that inappropriate use of treatment and procedures can be in the form of misuse, overuse or underuse.

9          It now gives me great pleasure to declare this congress open. I wish all participants a fruitful time and an enjoyable time in Singapore. Thank you.

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