Healthy options for heartland residents

parclife-health-min (1)A decal in Admiralty, one of the HPB’s initiatives, encourages residents to use the stairs instead of the lifts. Photo: ST

By Kash Cheong
The Straits Times
February 1, 2014

When Sembawang residents reach their lift lobbies these days, they see brightly coloured stickers urging them to take the stairs instead. This is one of the many Health Promotion Board initiatives to encourage healthy living in the heartland by building a Healthy Community Ecosystem (HCE).

It gives residents a healthier option for everything, from food to commuting. The HCE is being piloted in Sembawang and Choa Chu Kang, with a view of extending it to other estates.

Residents, for example, can choose to walk to MRT stations as the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will extend sheltered walkways by 2018.

The HPB is also working closely with LTA to ensure these walkways are elderly friendly and covered with anti-slip flooring.

Cycling is also being encouraged. Sembawang, for instance, currently has 10km of cycling paths leading to neighbouring towns. A similar network will be constructed in Choa Chu Kang.

“We want to bring together many elements to enable people to live a healthy lifestyle easily and effortlessly,” Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, chairman of the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Living Master Plan Task Force, said at the unveiling of the HCE yesterday.

Latest figures show that around 10.8 per cent of all Singaporean adults were considered obese in 2010, a big rise from 4 per cent in 2004.

To help arrest the trend, HPB is also providing free sports activities such as zumba and yoga at Sembawang and Choa Chu Kang parks. And to assist the elderly in staying mentally active and warding off dementia, the Sembawang Residents’ Committee organises weekly Rummy-O sessions.

Since September, people above 40 living in Sembawang and Choa Chu Kang can get subsidised chronic disease screening at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

The HCE also encompasses schools that promote healthier food choices in canteens and encourage students to exercise.

By next month, meals with less than 500 calories will also be available at Woodlands Mart and Sembawang Mart food courts.

HPB chief Zee Yoong Kang said feedback will be collected to fine-tune the HCE before it is introduced to other districts.

Sembawang residents such as housewife Perlyn Siaw applauded the new initiatives, but added that changing old habits is not easy. The 40-year-old said: “The stickers remind me to use the stairs and not the lift, but I can do that when I am not in a rush.”

This article was first published on February 1, 2014.
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