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Mr Robert Chew, Chairman, Singapore Hospice Council (SHC)
Ms Sim Bee Hia, Executive Director, SHC
Ms Leonie Lee, Director, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Temasek Polytechnic (TP)
Ms Goy Soon Lan, Director, School of Sports, Health and Leisure, Republic Polytechnic (RP)
Dr Phang Chiew Hun, Director, School of Health Sciences, Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP)
Ladies and gentlemen,
1.        Good afternoon. It is indeed my pleasure to join you today at this inaugural Hack Care: YOLO! Competition and to witness the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Singapore Hospice Council (SHC), Temasek Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, and Ngee Ann Polytechnic to collaborate and address palliative care needs in Singapore.
2.        Singapore is rapidly becoming a “super-aged” society. Many of you would have already memorized this statistics; 1 in 4 of our population will be above 65 by 2030. More than 21% of our population will be aged 65 and above by 2026, just in two years. And we cannot talk about ageing without talking about caregiving and mortality. Against this backdrop, palliative care will become increasingly important. Palliative care is however, an area that is broader and extends over different age groups. Palliative care is an approach that enhances the quality of life for patients, young and old, who are coping with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones. It alleviates the suffering of patients and their families through pain treatment and other problems, including physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Last year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) launched a refreshed National Strategy for Palliative Care (NSPC) with substantial recommendations to enhance palliative care in Singapore. We want to make it easier for patients to fulfil their wish to live, and leave with dignity and comfort, at home, instead of in hospitals.
3.        One of the focus areas under the national strategy is to develop a supportive palliative care environment. A key component of this is sustained community engagement to increase death literacy and build a compassionate society, from the young to the old. In this regard, I applaud SHC’s efforts to raise public awareness and participation in end-of-life initiatives. The Hack Care: YOLO! Competition is an excellent example of this.
4.        Palliative care is often seen as a sensitive topic as it is associated with death. Conversations about it hence remain limited, especially among our youth. Yet it is critical that we build awareness among the young, for a few reasons.
5.        First, young people often take on roles as caregivers to family members who may benefit from palliative care. Some of you here today may be doing so. If equipped with knowledge about available palliative care resources, our young, like you, can effectively advocate for the importance of such care through intergenerational conversations, thereby enabling older relatives to understand and receive palliative care. 
6.        Second, youths can help raise awareness of Advance Care Planning (ACP) amongst friends and family. ACP helps us plan for our future health and personal care. It helps us communicate to our loved ones and healthcare team about our personal beliefs, values and how we wish to be cared for when we lose the capacity to do so. Besides benefitting the patient, ACP also helps to avoid guilt, stress, and conflict among loved ones.
7.        Third, individuals of all ages – young and old – can and should make their ACPs to articulate their healthcare wishes in advance. If you have not done your ACP, I encourage you to do so. You should also encourage your family and friends to complete their ACP. The MyLegacy website is an excellent platform providing ACP-related information and tools, enabling individuals to find ACP facilitators, book appointments, and get started on future planning.
8.        For these reasons, youths must be empowered to co-create sustainable solutions to raise overall awareness of palliative care matters. There are many different ways for youths to contribute. 
9.        A group known as “Ashtronaut” came together as part of the Youth Action Challenge organised by the National Youth Council to facilitate “death cafés”. This was a unique take to approaching a very taboo subject, but it is also a reflection of our youths’ changing views about our own mortality. While we had reservations about featuring them at our pre-planning campaigns initially, the fears proved to be unfounded as their unique approach appealed to many participants who found the safe space with them to talk about the topic. Just like Ashtronaut, your action can make an impact too.
10.        I am very thrilled and it is very fitting that SHC has organised the Hack Care: YOLO! Competition, engaging and encouraging youths to make an impact on the palliative care landscape. Harnessing students’ creativity through a hackathon is a fun and innovative way to harness our youth’s ideas and energy. It is heartening to see over 200 of you from secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics, and universities joining the competition! I understand there are 54 entries in total and that is very impressive. I was looking at your presentation in awareness and I was very impressed. I can imagine how substantive it was in terms of the work and effort you put in. I hope it was also an opportunity for you to learn and understand what you should know better.
11.        Most importantly, today’s signing of the MOU between SHC and the polytechnics paves the way for many more joint initiatives, including student internship programmes, industry sharing, curriculum development and various collaborative projects. It demonstrates that youths and Institutes of Higher Learning like polytechnics can be involved in the palliative care sector in many ways. Internship programmes and job stints provide structured learning experiences, including hands-on exposure to palliative care settings. This helps create career pathways for our students upon graduation, and career development opportunities for all.  This is really a win-win approach. As part of our national push for palliative care, we are actively bolstering our national palliative care capacity and we welcome everyone with interest whether to serve as healthcare professionals or volunteers, to join us in this exciting and meaningful endeavour.
12.        In closing, I wish to thank SHC for being a key partner in our national palliative care efforts. I look forward to more of such efforts as the partnerships under the MOU take flight, and SHC supports our hackathon participants today to turn winning ideas into reality. Thank you.

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