Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the Launch of the Wellness Bus programme, on 12 June

Mr Lim Boon Heng, Special Advisor to Chairman, People’s Association

Grassroots Advisers

Ms Chan Hui Yuh, PBM, Organizing Chairman

Community  Partners

Friends and Residents

 

Introduction

Good Afternoon

          I am very happy to join you this afternoon for the launch of the Wellness Bus Programme.  This is a collaboration between the Aljunied Cluster Grassroots Organisations (GROs) and The Good Life Co-operative (TGLC), and is supported by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) and the Tote Board Community Healthcare Fund.

Live Long, Live Well

2.       Singaporeans are living longer. In the past 50 years, our average life expectancy increased by 18.3 years. In other words, for about every three years, our average life expectancy increased by 1 year.   

3.      Because our total fertility remains low and our life span is increasing, our population as a whole will “age” faster in the next one to two decades. That means there will be a higher proportion of Singaporeans who are 65 year old or above. By 2030, one in five of us, will be 65 years and older.

4.      However, there is no need to fear growing old, if we keep ourselves healthy. If our additional years of life are additional years in good health, then we have more time to achieve our aspirations in life.  We can live life to the fullest. With a healthy senior population, our society can remain dynamic and energetic even if our chronological age profile is older.

5.      But we must prepare well for an ageing population. We have earlier introduced the Pioneer Generation Package to assure our pioneers that they need not worry about healthcare expenses. We are also launching MediShield Life by the end of this year, to give all Singaporeans especially the seniors better coverage for large hospitalisation bills for life.  

Wellness Programme

6.       The best investment that we can make to prepare for an ageing population, is in the health of our seniors – to keep them healthy for longer. As individuals, this is the best investment to make too. In fact, whenever I speak with seniors, they tell me that health is the most important aspect as they grow old. Keeping healthy can be simple – eat well, exercise and do not pick up habits such as smoking which affects your health. In addition, going for recommended health screenings on a regular basis can help detect diseases early for prompt management.

7.      Therefore, the government has strongly supported the PA Wellness Programme, which seeks to build a ground up movement for active and healthy ageing among our older Singaporeans. Since 2013, the PA Wellness Movement has taken root in all 87 constituencies and outreached to over 420,000 older Singaporeans. Today, the Wellness Programme provides within its umbrella, a suite of interest group based activities, such as drumming, chess club, and Cantonese opera; as well as exercise groups such as Zumba, Taichi and Line-dancing.

8.      A study by Duke NUS in 2013 showed that seniors who participated in the Wellness Programme are more active, healthier and are more likely to have a stronger network of friends in the community, compared to those who do not.

9.      MOH will continue to partner PA to further promote health education as well as health screening among seniors. For instance, we have successfully partnered the public  hospitals with PA grassroots network to provide health screening to some 10,000 residents in different communities, such as Sembawang, Choa Chu Kang, Taman Jurong, Tampines and so on.

Wellness Bus Project

10.    This new Wellness Bus pilot project is yet another innovation under the Wellness Programme, to bring health education and services to the doorstep of residents.  This pilot programme is a direct response to suggestions from the ground. In the past few months, the Ministry of Health has held a series of focus group discussions to hear suggestions from Singaporeans to promote successful ageing. In a focus group discussion organized by the PA, grassroots leaders strongly supported the idea of health on wheels, that is, to make preventive health services more mobile and accessible through a health bus.

11.    Today, this suggestion has become reality. The Wellness Bus will rove around in the heartlands, and outreach to residents. Those identified to be at health risk would be enrolled into a year-long membership programme which includes health literacy programmes;  health checks such as vision, osteoarthritis, falls, dementia and mental health; vaccinations against flu and pneumococcal disease; as well as chronic disease management and follow-up counselling and monitoring.

12     The Wellness Bus seeks to provide full health assessments for 800 seniors, immunizations for 2,000 seniors, and to bring health literacy to some 10,000 seniors. The buses will return to each site they have visited on a regular basis. Such regular stops will not only make the programme more accessible, but will also facilitate follow-up with residents, beyond  just a “one-off” interaction.  

13.    I would like to commend the Goodlife Co-operative for taking the lead to pilot this service. It is heartening to see a group of professionals from all walks of life come together to improve access and affordability of preventive health for seniors in the community. I would also like to thank PCF and the branch Chairman for the support and the sponsorship of the buses and to Tote Board Community Healthcare Fund for supporting the programme. I understand that the buses were funded through the fundraising efforts of the local branches of the PCF. They started with the idea of one bus but ended up raising sufficient funds for 2 buses.  Well done and thank you!

 

 


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