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Speech by Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health, at Virtual National Heart Week/World Heart Day 2021, 18 September 2021

Singapore Heart Foundation Board Members,

Ladies and gentlemen


1.         Good day to all, and thank you for joining us in the celebration of Singapore Heart Foundation’s virtual National Heart Week/World Heart Day 2021.

2.         Cardiovascular disease or CVD is consistently the number one cause of death globally and in Singapore, accounted for about 1 in 3 deaths in 2020. In addition, hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the key risk factors to our heart health. Hypertension is a disease that can happen as a result of poor lifestyle choices such as poor diet choices, a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight and overconsumption of alcohol and tobacco use. The prevalence of hypertension has risen between 2017 and 2019 and 2020.

3.         Based on the National Population Health Survey 2020, high blood pressure affects 37.5 per cent of Malays, 36.1 per cent of Chinese and 29.5 per cent of Indians1. These forewarn a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Early detection and timely treatment are important to reduce the risk of severe complications like a heart attack or stroke. In this regard, the screening rates for hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidaemia at close to two-thirds of our resident population aged 40 to 74 years old can be improved.

4.         43-year-old Mr Shaiful Irwan2 was diagnosed with hypertension when he was just 29 years old. He was a sports enthusiast but spent little effort controlling his diet. In June last year,  he suffered a heart attack. After undergoing balloon angioplasty and stent procedure, he is now very mindful of his diet and blood pressure. Today, Mr Shaiful is being followed up at the Singapore Heart Foundation’s Heart Wellness Centre for cardiac rehabilitation to maintain his heart health and prevent a recurrence.

5.         To help more people live more healthily, there are various efforts that everyone can participate in, many of which are available in the neighbourhood and workplaces. The national subsidised Screen for Life programme encourages regular screening and follow-up. Additionally, with sodium being a major contributing factor to high blood pressure, we must remain mindful of what we eat. There are available Healthier Choice Symbol food products that are tagged ‘Lower in Sodium’, and the Healthier Dining Programme F&B operators, such as hawker and coffee shop stalls, also offer lower-calorie options and dishes that use healthier ingredients as part of their core offerings.

6.         We have ensured that our health promotion efforts reach out to all segments of the population and in a manner that resonated with them. For example, the government declared the War on Diabetes in 2016, to rally a whole-of-nation effort to tackle diabetes by encouraging Singaporeans to take more responsibility for their health by eating healthily, exercising more regularly and going for regular recommended screenings and follow-up. Beyond our broad plans for Singaporeans, we also have targeted efforts to address varying health needs. In particular, the Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Board have partnered Malay-Muslim and Indian organisations to roll out culturally-relevant initiatives such as virtual exercises and health talks to improve the health outcomes of our Malay and Indian communities. Recently, a workgroup focussing on reviewing and enhancing the outreach to the Malay-Muslim community was announced. As part of the ongoing efforts, a Ramadan and Hari Raya campaign was launched to encourage the Malay community to consume less sugar and choose healthier food options. Healthier food items were distributed as part of grocery packs to Malay households. Online physical activity sessions and smoking cessation and mental well-being virtual talks were also conducted in partnership with Malay Muslim organisations and mosques. For the Indian community, we had a Deepavali campaign to encourage complementing traditional festive goodies with healthier food choices and consume lower sugared beverages. We will continue to strengthen the partnerships with various organisations to improve our engagement with different groups.

7.         I am therefore pleased to launch “Down with Hypertension”, a new programme by Singapore Heart Foundation, to strengthen heart health awareness among the Malay community. The pilot programme, available in English and Malay, touches on the impact hypertension can have on our body, and lifestyle changes you can adopt. The programme is virtual for now, and will be carried out physically when possible. Participants will be guided on proper blood pressure reading methods to monitor one’s health condition especially when diagnosed with hypertension, and blood pressure monitors will be distributed. 500 people are expected to benefit from this run. I urge you and your family to look out for this free programme on the SHF website and sign up when it is made available. On top of that, do seek your doctor’s advice, as it will guide you in caring for your heart and help you better understand your health.

8.         If you are unsure when to begin to lead a healthier lifestyle, make the National Heart Week/World Heart Day your starting point. Over the next two weeks, SHF has organised a series of virtual health talks that will enable you to make better choices for your heart and nudge you in the right direction. This includes an online game called Hugopoly that will educate you on healthier habits for better cardiovascular health.

9.         I hope you can take up the challenge to shape the heart-friendly lifestyle you and your loved ones deserve. Let’s take the first step and use our hearts to support one another through this journey! Thank you.

[1] Ministry of Health, Committee of Supply 2020, Speech by Parliamentary Secretary of Health.

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