1. A very good afternoon to all. It is my pleasure to be here with everyone at the inaugural Healthy Women, Healthier Families carnival.
2. Earlier this month, during the Healthier SG White Paper Parliamentary debate, I shared about the feminisation of ageing. Women who are married are at greater risk of being lonely as they tend to live longer than their husbands. Women also face greater financial insecurity and take on a greater share of caregiving responsibilities. These are very real concerns. The Women’s Health Committee looks to support women in their preventive health journey so they may live longer and healthier. Together with our partners, we will continue to sustain education efforts and support for women.
3. To further promote awareness and sustain some of these initiatives, the Women’s Health Committee that I chair has organised today’s carnival. This event, led by the Osteoporosis Society Singapore (OSS) and the People’s Association Women’s Integration Network Council (PA WIN Council), brings together all the members’ initiatives and showcase initiatives and activities in the community to encourage women to take charge of their own health.
Strengthening Support For Women’s Health Across Life Stages
4. The theme of this carnival, ‘Phases of a Woman’s Life’, aptly acknowledges the many roles a woman plays– and the importance of ensuring that her health needs are addressed at various phases of her life.
5. Health is optimised by inculcating healthy lifestyle habits from a young age, such as good nutrition, suitable physical activities, building strong bones and getting timely vaccinations. As a woman transits into adulthood, going for appropriate health screening is important for early detection and better management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and some cancers later in life.
Women’s Health Committee
6. Under the Women’s Health Committee, we focus on three areas of women’s health – increasing uptake for cancer screening, improving bone health, and raising awareness about young women’s health.
7. Encouraging women to screen through education on cancers and the importance of appropriate screening has been an important focus of the Committee. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Singaporean women1. According to the Singapore Cancer Registry Report 2019, the incidence of breast cancer has increased about 3.5 times over the last five decades. Regular mammogram screening can make a huge difference in detecting the disease early and improving prognosis and survival rates. For women aged 50 and above, it is important to go for your mammogram screening once every two years.
8. The Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) Screen for Life programme offers subsidised mammogram screening at centres islandwide. We are proud to have provided nearly 1 million subsidised mammogram screenings since 2002. This translates to benefitting some 370,000 women, and picking up cancers in over 4,800 women. Of these women, close to 90% were diagnosed at an earlier stage – Stage 0, I and II – of breast cancer. I strongly encourage every woman to check your screening eligibility and sign up for your next mammogram.
9. Another common cancer women suffer from is cervical cancer, which is preventable and curable – as long as it is detected early. It is the tenth most common cancer among women in Singapore2. To protect themselves against cervical cancer, we encourage adolescent girls and young women to receive the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. Even after HPV vaccination, women aged 25 years and above should continue to go for the recommended cervical cancer screening.
10. Another important aspect of women’s health is improving and maintaining bone health – women are at a higher risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures compared to men. Globally, one in three women above 50 years will experience osteoporotic fractures, as opposed to one in five men in the same age group3. OSS has collaborated with HPB to reach out to a wide audience from primary school students to adults and seniors. They have been training and deploying bone health ambassadors at regular health talks and physical activity programmes in the community and producing an animated video, “The Story of Healthy Bones”, to educate children. With World Osteoporosis Day falling on 20 October next week, I take this opportunity to urge everyone here to continue with the efforts to maintain good bone health through healthy lifestyle practices such as ensuring sufficient daily calcium intake and participating in regular physical activities including weight bearing exercises.
11. Also playing an active role in engaging women in the community, is the PA WIN Council, which seeks to equip women with knowledge and information to better manage work and family life, as well as to take charge of their health and that of their families. Their ‘Better Me, Better Us’ programme offers talks and workshops on bone health, mental health and cancer screening for women. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme continued online to engage working women and stay home mothers who were facing stress of managing work and looking after their children. I applaud the efforts by OSS, PA WIN Council and the many more organisations that continue to rally women in the community for the betterment of their health.
12. Under Healthier SG, the Ministry of Health will focus our efforts upstream to keep Singaporeans healthy and make it easier for Singaporean women to take steps towards better health and adopt healthier lifestyles. The Women’s Health Committee will continue working with its partners like OSS and the PA WIN Council and continue to champion good health among Singaporean women at all stages of their life and nudge them to take charge of their health, and that of their families.
13. Once again, it is good to be here with all of you today, and I hope that you will participate actively in the carnival and enjoy the activities put together for you. Have a great afternoon ahead.