Championing population health


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 Credit: Tomorrow's Medicine

With 25 per cent of Singapore’s population predicted to be aged 65 and above by 2030, the need to ensure that people continue to enjoy a good quality of life even in their later years has never been greater. That’s why Singapore’s largest public healthcare group, SingHealth, is adopting a holistic plan to improve population health.

“Singaporeans should not just live longer, but also live healthier for as long as possible,” said Dr Michael Wong, Group Director of the SingHealth Regional Health System, in an interview with Tomorrow's Medicine.

“One of the things we’re trying to achieve as doctors is a deeper, wider appreciation of the social dimensions of health, asking ‘What matters to you?’, as opposed to ‘What’s the matter with you?’” added Dr Edwin Low, Director of Programme Development at the SingHealth Office of Regional Health. “It is only when you understand what is important that you can build conversation around it.”

Already, the wheels have been set in motion, with the SingHealth Group of institutions rolling out a range of population health initiatives to encourage people to rethink the meaning of a healthy lifestyle, including programmes such as ‘Health Up!’—a pilot project that the Polyclinics launched late last year.

“Health Up! Is a community wellness programme initiated by SingHealth Polyclinics to help individuals and their families increase their health knowledge, identify and close screening gaps, and eventually adopt and sustain a healthier lifestyle,” said Dr Sabrina Wee, Clinic Director (Designate) of the upcoming Tampines North Polyclinic, who is also one of the clinician leads of the programme.  

This pilot programme, targeted at residents aged 40 and above, offers participants a complementary six-week holistic and structured health journey, which is supported by the Polyclinics, along with other healthcare and community partners such as Changi General Hospital, Health Promotion Board, Tampines GRC and Sport Singapore.

“We are grateful to be able to tap on the expertise and resources of our colleagues at Changi General Hospital through their community screening events, our local GP partners with their clinics in your neighbourhoods, and our community partners. These partners have strong roots in the Tampines precinct to ensure more effective resident engagement, and long-term sustainability of healthy lifestyle habits in the community,” said Wee.

As part of the programme, wellbeing coordinators will also reach out to each participant with a personalised care plan to motivate them every step of the way. 

“In contrast to traditional care providers who prescribe medical interventions like medication, rest, and exercise, wellbeing coordinators are there to find out what matters to the patient,” explained Wong. “If the patient tells us that gardening can contribute to their wellbeing and make them feel healthier, the wellbeing coordinator will try to make this possible by linking them to community gardens.”

Beside promoting a healthy lifestyle through programmes like ‘Health Up!’, a slew of new tools—in the form of apps and devices—has also been piloted to promote population health, with the latest initiative being the SingHealth Centre for Population Health Research and Implementation that was launched on 29 April.

By bringing an extensive network of community partners and research agencies under the umbrella of the new centre, SingHealth hopes to accelerate the rate at which new solutions from population health research can be pushed out to improve care within the community.

“We need to go where the residents are, and deliver care in a way that is timely and appropriate for the population, even before they enter the healthcare system.”

Dr Michael Wong


Adapted by Li Min Chua from Tomorrow’s Medicine. Quotes were taken from Population health – A new way forward - SingHealth and Heads up! Health Up! is here to help Tampines residents level up their health - SingHealth.

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