War declared on diabetes

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has declared war on diabetes, with each of the four political leaders in its ranks primed to tackle a particular aspect of the disease.

In setting the battle scene, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in Parliament yesterday that diabetes, one of the biggest drains on the healthcare system, is already costing the country more than $1 billion a year.

"Left undetected, untreated or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputations," he said during the debate on his ministry's budget. Every day, four Singaporeans lose a limb or appendage because of complications from diabetes, he noted.

Of the more than 400,000 diabetics in Singapore today, one in three do not even know they have the disease. Of those who do know, one in three have poor control.

If nothing is done, things will just get worse, with one out of every three people here - more than a million - getting diabetes.

"Therefore, I am declaring war on diabetes," said Mr Gan. "We want to help Singaporeans live life free from diabetes and for those with the disease, to help them control their condition to prevent deterioration."

He will co-chair a new Diabetes Prevention and Care Taskforce with Acting Education Minister Ng Chee Meng, that will include people from the public and private sectors as well as patient advocacy and caregiver groups.

This "war" will start with the young. Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said it worries him to note that children and youth are getting increasingly overweight.

"Childhood obesity is likely to persist and progress into adulthood," he added. These overweight people will be at higher risk of getting chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

He will jointly lead an inter-agency NurtureSG Taskforce with Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary to spearhead this effort.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor's Women's Health Committee will help women with gestational diabetes to prevent birth complications, as well as tackling higher risk of diabetes in the child.

Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat will work with the community to promote healthy living and reduce prevalence of diabetes. He will try to get more people to screen for diabetes, and to strengthen follow-up treatment for those who are diagnosed with the disease.

Mr Gan said: "The war on diabetes will not be a quick battle but a long war requiring sustained effort."


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