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07 Nov 2022

6th Jan 2020

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Dr Chia Shi-Lu

MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC 

Question No. 3342

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether he can provide an update on the current rates of obesity in children, adults and the elderly respectively; (b) how do these figures compare with those of previous years; and (c) what has been the progress and effectiveness of measures to reduce obesity among Singaporeans.

Written Answer

1      Based on the 2017 National Population Health Survey, the prevalence of obesity[1] among adult Singaporeans aged 18 to 59 years was 8.9%, and that among seniors aged 60 to 74 years was 6.9%.  This has remained stable since 2013.  The proportion of overweight[2] children in our mainstream schools, aged 6 to 18 years, has increased from 11% in 2013 to 13% in 2017[3].

2      MOH and HPB work with other government agencies to combat obesity through the promotion of physical activity and better diets, such as eating more healthily and reducing daily sugar consumption.  This is also in line with our overall strategy in Singapore’s War on Diabetes.

3      To promote healthier diets, HPB has introduced programmes such as the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) and Healthier Dining Programme (HDP) to increase the availability of healthier options, as well as campaigns such as the Eat, Drink, Shop Healthy Challenge to incentivise healthier purchases.  To further create a healthy food environment, HDB and HPB collaborated to include the provision of healthy meals as a consideration in Price-Quality tenders for new eating houses, awarding more points for tenderers that offer healthy meal options. In partnership with MOE and ECDA, HPB has also implemented healthy meals programmes[4] in all mainstream schools and 8 in 10 preschools, to inculcate healthy eating habits from young.  These efforts are complemented by health education outreach in schools in partnership with stakeholders such as South-West Community Development Council, Sengkang General Hospital, and National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Council; and at workplaces where HPB works with industry partners to roll out relevant workplace health promotion programmes such as workshops and health coaching.

4      These programmes have contributed to better diets. From the National Nutrition Survey 2018, Singaporeans are consuming fewer calories, better-quality carbohydrates consisting more wholegrain, fruits and vegetables, as well as substituting saturated fat with unsaturated fat.  However, our sugar intake remains high at 60g per person per day.  As such, we will be introducing new regulatory measures for pre-packaged sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), namely nutrition labelling and advertising prohibitions for less healthy SSBs.

 5      To encourage exercise, HPB, SportSG, and People’s Association offer a wide range of physical activity programmes and sport facilities island-wide. MOE also makes facilities and sports equipment available beyond the formal curriculum time to encourage better utilisation. There are targeted programmes, such as those that cater to at-risk Professional, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMET) at the workplace to increase the adoption of a more active lifestyle. For seniors, Active Ageing Programmes (AAPs) are also made available at over 600 locations island-wide where the elderly can participate in group exercises and health workshops. 

6      Recognising how our living environment can influence behaviours, our infrastructure agencies such as MND, MOT and others have strived to build a city that encourages active lifestyles and mobility.  This includes more than 350 parks and gardens, 200km of covered link-ways, and 440km of cycling paths and park connectors; and there are plans to further enhance the living environment to support a more physically active citizenry.  All these efforts have led to encouraging results – 80.9% of Singaporeans had sufficient total physical activity in 2017, up from 73.1% in 2013.

7      Reducing obesity in our population requires coordinated and continuous efforts from all relevant stakeholders.  In the long term, such efforts may also lead to a reduction in the prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension and their accompanying complications.  MOH will continue to monitor the trends in obesity, physical activity, and nutritional habits of Singaporeans, and work with the other government agencies and the wider society to tackle this issue.

[1] Obesity is defined as having a body mass index equal to or greater than 30 kg/m2.

[2] Childhood overweight is defined as ≥90th percentile of BMI-for-age.

[3] Source: Ministry of Education, students from Primary Schools to Junior College/Centralised Institutes.

[4] Healthy Meals in Schools Programme (HMSP); Healthy Meals in Preschools Programme (HMPP)