Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases
1. Non-communicable diseases are on the rise around the world, and certainly in Singapore.
2. This is partly driven by an ageing society. But even putting age aside, people are getting less healthy. Our lifestyles are becoming more sedentary, we are spending more time on electronic devices, we are not eating well, we are not sleeping well. And in a modern society, modern lifestyle can also take its toll on mental health.
3. The wave of chronic diseases from unhealthy lifestyles is in the long term potentially more challenging than COVID-19 infection waves in the short term.
4. The necessary and natural response of health ministries around the world is to keep on investing and expanding healthcare capacity to treat more and more sick people. But that alone is not enough if we want to treat the problem at its roots. We cannot accept that more people getting sick is a given. As governments, we need to make people healthier and prevent them from becoming chronically ill in the first place.
5. Indeed, we need to focus on healthcare, not sickness care. We need to put more weight on building health, in families and communities, and not limit ourselves only to treating sickness in hospitals and operating theatres.
6. If we are determined to do this, then the part of healthcare that needs the most strengthening is primary care.
7. That is why we believe that the future of healthcare lies in primary care. We will make preventive care our top healthcare priority for the next decade.
8. That is why family doctors must become a central figure, because they make up our primary care system. We need public policies to better support family doctors to help the population stay healthy.
9. We need to build strong links and referral protocols between family doctors and hospitals, so the latter can better support them, especially for the serious and complex cases.
10. We need family doctors to offer not drug prescriptions, but also social prescriptions like better diet, regular exercise to inculcate good health habits. We will link them up with community organisers who can deliver such healthy regimes.
11. We need to encourage people, including healthy ones, to commit to see one family doctor regularly and over the long term. We need IT systems that share medical records of patients seamlessly across different healthcare settings.
12. We live in an era of fascinating medical technology advancement. We need to embrace them. But the most urgent healthcare policies have got to do with simpler policies that support the humble and essential family doctor.
13. And this is part of the universality of healthcare.