Ideas galore on healthy living masterplan for Singapore

SINGAPORE - A national "Big Walk" every Sunday, healthier hawker food and more physical exercise in school - these were among the many ideas thrown up at Wednesday's night Web chat on developing a healthy-living masterplan for Singapore.

The plan is one of the Health Ministry's aims for this year. On Wednesday's night 90-minute session is part of the six-week public consultation on the subject.

The chat took on a life of its own with participants endorsing, replying to or countering comments from others.

Dr Amy Khor, chairman of government feedback unit Reach, said it was "quite a spirited exchange" that threw up useful suggestions, such as the need to start young and the call for more options for healthy food.

Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Health, and the one tasked with developing the masterplan, was encouraged by the interest from participants. He has already received more than 100 suggestions on the ministry's Facebook page.

Dr Faishal even shared his personal experience during the chat, telling how he and his wife would talk about healthy food during meals, so that their children can pick up good habits.

He was responding to a suggestion from Mr Chan Zhiwei, who said mothers should "cook with less salt and oil so their daughters and sons will live longer".

Mr Edmond Chua spoke of his "campaign" called "Veggie Thursday" to encourage people to go meatless one day a week.

The need for healthier fast food was a popular topic. Said Mr Matthias Lee: "Being busy means that people grab food on the go, and the fastest food available are normally unhealthy."

Another participant Tze Kern added that in the US, people can choose healthier side dishes like salads instead of fries when ordering fast food. This option is not available here, he said.

Mr Bob Ahmad shared that food which is both healthy and tasty tends to be expensive.

Ms Santha Raman agreed: "The problem is that char kway teow tastes better than fish soup."

Fellow participant Kelvin Lim suggested less healthy food be taken only occasionally, as a treat.

Dr Khor also chipped in on the matter, saying the Health Promotion Board will be increasing the number of healthy hawker centres from the current 16 to 40 by the end of this year.

Several participants felt that "institutionalised" exercise might work better than leaving it to individuals, as suggested by Dr Khor.

Ms Nadina Salleh's idea: Getting people who were at high risk together once a week for exercise.

Mr Isaiah Chng gave the thumbs-up but said the exercise "has to be fun and engaging", and should be open to everyone.

Dr Faishal told the media after the chat that Singapore set off on this healthy journey many years back, and is currently one of the leaders of healthy living in the world. In terms of childhood immunisation, for example, "we're among the best", he said.

He hopes to get Singaporeans to work together to not only keep this lead, but to improve on it. 

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