War on diabetes: Keys to battling the disease in our communities
Singapore's fight against diabetes has been making headlines since 2016 when the country declared war on the disease.
Over 65,000 Singaporeans have since been screened for diabetes, and today more emphasis is placed on the importance of good nutrition and leading a healthy lifestyle.
Last month, the Ministry of Health took the fight up a notch by announcing a ban on advertisements of packaged drinks with high sugar content, making Singapore the first country in the world to do so.
Still, beyond government regulation, there is more that can be done to foster more sustainable, long-term change in the collective fight against diabetes.
Overall, the war against diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint.
As we marked World Diabetes Day on Nov 14, it is timely for us to remind ourselves of the role each of us plays in preventing the spread of this debilitating disease.
DRIVING PUBLIC EDUCATION
Today, a third of the people with diabetes are unaware they have the disease. Among those who are aware, one in three have poor control of their condition, which can put them at risk for other illnesses such as stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and eye disease.
Especially with the number of diabetics in Singapore poised to more than double from 440,000 in 2014 to one million by 2050, there is an urgent need for us all to step up efforts to build awareness and deepen understanding.
Following the government's lead from the Let's Beat Diabetes campaign, businesses can actively encourage their employees to assess their risk of diabetes, while individuals can help their communities do the same.
These days, with online assessment tools readily available, like the World Diabetes Day website and HealthHub, assessing the risk of diabetes takes only a matter of minutes.
Over 50 per cent of Type 2 diabetes cases are preventable and the condition can be controlled through a series of positive lifestyle modifications, including adopting good nutrition habits, leading an active lifestyle, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake and getting more sleep.
INSPIRING CULTURAL CHANGE
The fight against diabetes also requires significant lifestyle changes in our families, communities and workplaces.
For starters, choose your foods wisely - select wholegrains instead of refined carbohydrates; skip sugary drinks and opt for water, coffee or tea; and consume healthy fats from leaner cuts of fish and chicken.
To rally your family members along, stock up on healthier food options as well as fruits and vegetables, and prepare home-cooked meals more often.
Companies can also inspire cultural changes in the workplace. Through providing healthy snack options, organising group exercise sessions and encouraging participation in fitness events, such as the Marina Run and Spartan Race, these efforts can help to improve the overall health and well-being of their employees.
NURTURING HEALTHY HABITS AMONG YOUTH
Most parents would agree that teaching children healthy lifestyle habits early allows them to continue making wiser health decisions as they grow older. This is especially crucial, as the percentage of overweight children in mainstream schools has risen from 11 per cent in 2011 to 13 per cent in 2017.
Simple lifestyle changes such as reducing sweet treats and cultivating an appreciation for fruits and vegetables can condition a child's taste buds to enjoy healthier foods in the long run.
Encouraging physical activity outdoors can also get children used to being out and about often.
The writer is senior vice president and managing director of Herbalife Nutrition Asia Pacific