More ways to join battle of the bulge

After helping at least 6,000 people lose a total of 20,000kg in six months, a nationwide campaign to get Singaporeans to shed the extra flab is bulking up.

The One Million Kg Challenge is expanding its publicity campaign and will place at least 70 more weigh-in stations at Guardian pharmacy outlets islandwide by January.

This will make it easier for people to track their weight under the programme. There are just 10 such kiosks now.

"The visibility of the kiosks islandwide will also serve as a reminder to Singapore residents to sign up and stay on the weight-loss journey," said Mr Zee Yoong Kang, chief executive of the Health Promotion Board (HPB), which launched the scheme in March.

Since then, more than 80,000 people have signed up, almost 60 per cent of whom were overweight. About half pledged to lose weight, and around 6,000 checked their weight regularly at kiosks.

The next phase of the campaign will encourage people to sign up in teams of three to four, and individuals can get a buddy to help keep them on track. Employers can also ride on the campaign to run similar activities for their workers, encouraging colleagues to come together to support each other to keep healthy.

The new plans were announced yesterday at the HDB Hub during the launch of the second season of the challenge.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the guest of honour, joined in an Indian bhangra dance before touring booths promoting healthy living.

Ten finalists - randomly chosen from among those who lost at least 3kg in the first season - took part in a draw. The top prize of a Suzuki Swift car went to 44-year-old engineer Ting Yit Lai.

Prizes for season two include travel vouchers and a yacht experience.

The challenge is Singapore's first national programme which offers freebies and prizes to encourage people to lose weight and is part of an ongoing battle against obesity, which is on the rise.

According to the last National Health Survey in 2010, 11 per cent of Singaporean adults aged between 18 and 69 were obese compared to 7 per cent in 2004.

Obesity increases a person's risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

In 2010, one million Singaporeans who were outside their healthy weight range for their height were already either pre-diabetic or suffered at least one or more chronic health conditions.

Research led by the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health has forecast that, by 2050, one in nearly six people here will be obese.

The paper also suggests that if this goes unchecked, one in two Singaporeans in 2050 will face the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.

To nip diabetes in the bud, the HPB plans to start an intervention programme which targets an estimated 14.4 per cent of Singaporeans who have pre-diabetes.

Those with the condition have blood sugar levels that are above normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Evidence has shown that the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes can be slowed or stopped with changes in both diet and physical activity.

A 12-week pilot of the "pre-diabetes" intervention programme is expected to start in December, according to quotation documents.

It will include structured exercise programmes, with participants also taught to exercise on their own at their workplace.

Dr Beng Teck Liang, chief executive of the Singapore Medical Group, told The Sunday Times that, in a country facing rising obesity levels and an ageing population, it is important to focus on preventive measures, especially among those pre-disposed to chronic conditions.

This article was first published on Oct 26, 2014.
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