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Health Minister Gan declares war on diabetes

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Singapore's healthy life expectancy may be among the top three in the world but Singaporeans are living with longer ill health now than before, with diabetes a worrying trend.

SINGAPORE'S healthy life expectancy may be among the top three in the world but Singaporeans are living with longer ill health now than before, with diabetes a worrying trend.

"Decreasing activity across all age groups and the increasing consumption of excessive calories and fat leading to a rising obesity rate. And, obesity is the major risk factor for chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes," said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong during the debate on his ministry's budget on Wednesday.

So he declared war on diabetes.

This, as more than 400,000 Singaporeans have diabetes today.

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One in three Singaporeans is likely to get diabetes in their lifetime.

Of those who have diabetes, one in three Singaporeans have not been diagnosed.

Among those diagnosed, one in three have poor control of their condition, said Mr Gan, who added that four Singaporeans a day lose a limb or appendage due to diabetic-related complications.

These complications reduce the quality of life for the patient, and increase the burden on individuals, families and society as a whole, noted the minister.

"A 2010 Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health study calculated the total economic burden of diabetes for working-age adults at more than a billion dollars a year. However, the long-term cost of diabetes, taking into account the psycho-social burden, is far more than this," he pointed out.

Mr Gan shared with the House that the ministry will first work on upstream prevention by promoting healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity rates in order to cut down on new diabetes cases.

The government will also move to strengthen early screening and intervention so as to identify the disease early among those at risk or undiagnosed, he said.

Third, the government will support better disease control so that disease progression can be slowed and complications reduced.

To coordinate the strategies on the war on diabetes, Mr Gan said he will be co-chairing a new Diabetes Prevention and Care Taskforce with Ng Chee Meng, Acting Minister for Education.

The taskforce will include representatives from government agencies, the private sector, patient advocacy and caregiver groups.

It will "develop and implement a multi-year action plan for the war on diabetes, reach out and mobilise the nation to fight this disease together and monitor and evaluate the outcomes of our efforts", Mr Gan said.

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