Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower, at the Official Launch of the One Million KG Challenge, 15 Mar 2014

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary (Health & Transport)

Mr Zee Yoong Kang, CEO, Health Promotion Board

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

1.            I am very happy to join all of you here today at the official launch of the One Million KG Challenge, the Health Promotion Board (HPB)’s first and most extensive nationwide movement against overweight and obesity.

Obesity as an urgent public health issue

2.            The prevalence of obesity and overweight in adults has been increasing steadily over the years and obesity has become a global problem. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that internationally, at least 2.8 million deaths each year are attributable to overweight or obesity.[1]

3.            Why is this a concern for us? Like many countries, the overweight and obesity trend in Singapore is rising; and the rate at which the trend is rising is rapid. Between 1998 and 2004, there was only a 0.9 percentage point growth in overall obesity prevalence[2]. By 2010, obesity prevalence had increased at approximately 0.7 percentage point per year[3] to 11%, which is only one percentage lower than the global average obesity prevalence of 12%[4].

4.            This is a concern for us on a few levels. Currently, 1.7 million Singaporeans[5] are already at risk of obesity-related diseases, as they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than or equal to 23. Six in 10 of these Singaporeans are either pre-diabetic, or suffer at least one chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.[6] Obesity is a major contributing factor to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart diseases, and stroke, which can affect our quality of life and lead to significant morbidity and mortality. Obesity can also lead to the degeneration of our joints, and is a risk factor for cancers such as breast and colon cancer. It is urgent we curb the increase in obesity and heighten awareness on the importance of healthy weight management.

About The One Million KG Challenge

5.            While most people understand the importance of good health and healthy living, not enough Singaporeans are practising it, because many believe they will have to change their lives drastically in order to lead a healthy lifestyle. What most people actually need is a simple nudge to begin their journey to good health. How do we convince people of that?

6.            For the first time, HPB is embarking on an innovative approach to first nudge Singapore residents to make that little change in behaviour that would start them on the path of healthy weight management through the use of incentives. The One Million KG Challenge, HPB’s first national-level weight management initiative encompasses this approach. The Challenge marks an escalation of HPB’s efforts to battle the bulge, as it promotes achievement and maintenance of healthy weight.

7.            In addition to increasing the accessibility of health promoting facilities, programmes, and healthier food options in the community, workplace and schools through the Healthy Living Master Plan, HPB will provide a support system comprising an online portal, workshops, and structured programmes to entrench the adoption of these behaviours. This holistic support system aims to address the needs of various groups in learning about healthy diets and adopting physical activities that will lead to sustained weight management. Those who have successfully achieved and maintained a healthy weight could look forward to being rewarded with increased incentives in the final stage.

Interim Outcomes and Complementary Efforts

8.            I am encouraged to note that since the launch of Phase One in January 2014, the One Million kg Challenge has gained wide-based organisational support and support from individuals. Eighteen companies and more than 10,000 individuals have signed up[7] for the Challenge. Over the next three to four months, HPB will be conducting more than 20 roadshows at workplaces and in the community, with plans in place to increase the number of island-wide touch points for Singapore residents to sign up for the One Million kg Challenge.

9.            We are also engaging food manufacturers to produce healthier food products and heighten consumer awareness through the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS). Fast food restaurants such as McDonalds have been inducted to offer lower calorie set meals at their outlets across Singapore. We believe healthy eating can be convenient and delicious whilst maintaining good nutritional and energy balance!

Conclusion

10.         I would like to conclude by wishing all participants a good weight management journey.  Today, just by joining us at the launch of One Million KG Challenge means you are taking that first little step towards a healthier life, and a healthy weight. I encourage you to start thinking that you can do it, and together, we can lose that one million KG by 2016.

11.         Thank you.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/

[2] National Health Survey 2004

[3] National Health Survey 2010

[4] http://health.india.com/news/world-health-statistics-2012-one-in-six-adults-obese-one-in-three-hypertensiveone-in-10-diabetic/

[5] 1.7m is an estimate of the number of Singapore residents aged 18 years & above with BMI of 23 or higher in 2013. This estimate is obtained by applying the proportion of residents with BMI of 23 or higher from National Health Survey 2010 onto the 2013 resident population.

[6] National Health Survey 2010

[7] Figure as of 15 March 2014

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