Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the Opening Ceremony of the 8th World Congress on Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHAD), 19 Nov 2013, at Suntec Singapore

Associate Professor Chong Yap Seng, Congress Chair,

Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, Programme Committee Chair,

Professor Mark Hanson, President of the International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease,

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

1       Good morning. I am delighted to join you this morning at the opening of the 8th World Congress of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHAD).  Singapore is privileged to have this opportunity to bring together policy-makers, public health professionals, clinicians, researchers, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from over 40 countries to this congress.

Addressing the Burden of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs

2       Today, there are still preventable deaths amongst women at childbirth around the world. In 2010, the World Health Organization reported more than 200,000 women who died due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth.[1] Quality care before, during, and after childbirth remains an important goal even as countries continue to strive to reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health. We also have to think about giving each child the best start to life. It has been said that the first 1000 days of life has a significant impact on a child’s ability to grow and learn. A healthy population will also help build a resilient society and a strong nation.

Singapore’s commitment to biomedical sciences research

3       The theme for this year’s Congress, “From Science to Policy and Action”, reflects the commitment to provide better more cost-effective diagnoses and treatments for our patients.

4       In 2006, the National Medical Research Council, under the Ministry of Health, funded five translational and clinical research programmes. Metabolic Diseases is one of the flagship programmes that was funded. The programme, which focuses on diabetes and obesity, is led by Associate Professor Chong Yap Seng and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the National University of Singapore. I understand that Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Scientific Officer of the Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences (SICS), is involved in this programme.  I note that SICS is now largely focused on developmental origins research and has successfully developed partnership with industry and other healthcare partners.

5       A major study called GUSTO or Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes was started to find ways of preventing the onset of metabolic diseases in later years. The study follows approximately 1200 expectant Singaporean mothers and their children throughout pregnancy, birth and the early years of life. The study involves over 100 investigators in Singapore, with international collaborators from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada.  Many findings in this Study will be presented at this meeting.

6       I am happy to announce that the Programme for Metabolic Diseases has been successful in renewing its award at the recent TCR Flagship Grant Call, along with three new awards to fund programmes in Lymphoma, Parkinson's disease and Tuberculosis. These Programmes are led by clinician scientists working with multidisciplinary teams from across the different healthcare, academic and research institutions.

The need for differentiation

7       With changing lifestyles and ageing societies, the health issues that we face today are becoming more complex. There is a need to study the “Asian Phenotype”. For example, we know that Indians and Chinese are more likely to develop diabetes compared to Europeans and Americans. We need to gain a better understanding of such differences so that clinical treatment and guidelines may be tailored appropriately.

8       The establishment of the Singapore Centre for Nutritional Sciences, Metabolic Diseases and Human Development ("SiNMeD"), a joint centre between A*STAR’s SICS and National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, will build on clinical and translational research and education, focusing on research into the developmental determinants of health and metabolic disease, and the role of nutrition in these areas.

9       However research ultimately must be translated to everyday life. Therefore the Healthier Child, Brighter Future programme empowers parents-to-be with the knowledge and skills to adopt good health practices from the prenatal to the pre-primary stage in life. This is delivered through the provision of toolkits and workshops conducted at pre-school, workplaces and within the community. The toolkits are presented to parents during pregnancy, at birth and when their children enter pre-school.

10     I therefore hope the discussions at the Congress meeting will bring forth more research ideas that can be translated into practical use in clinical and public health programmes. On this note, I wish everyone a fruitful and successful meeting.

Thank you.

1World Health Organization, 2013, [Online] Available:
http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/maternal_health/en/index.html, Accessed: 11 October 2013

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