There was a time in the 1960s and early 1970s when children in Singapore were strongly urged to drink milk in school and brush their teeth. Brushing their teeth was mandatory because it was always argued that good oral hygiene meant good health like in the lectures Singaporeans now get on the need to exercise regularly and eat the right amount of vegetables.
That was not all.
Children were also encouraged to cultivate the habit of savings through the buying of postage stamps, which alas has not endured to, and through adulthood of many of those students in the cohorts of the 1960s and 1970s. And, then there was also the practice of partaking in sports – though some pig-headed, cross-wired teachers would malevolently deny that – as a means of staying active and healthy just so these students could become well-meaning and well constituted citizens of our country.
But that era of the 1960s meant people living in thatched homes, with little or nothing of the creature comforts we see these days, a single breadwinner who often than not is the father and certainly none of the celestial incomes we see in households today. Those were difficult days and difficult times.
Yet for all the privation that Singapore had to undergo to reach where it is today, the nation has unconsciously stopped the practice of milk drinking in primary schools for nothing more than to leave many in the nation slack-jawed. Nor do we hear of any institutionalized practice of savings or strong efforts to encourage savings in schools any more.
Just what has happened in the interim between the times when we had precious little to now, when we have comforts aplenty?
Now Singapore is considerably richer in GDP terms. Household incomes have shot through the roof and many could afford things that could never ever be remotely imagined such as in fleets of luxury cars, homes etc.
Yet one of the most fundamental lessons in health diagnosis is now lain in waste because rather inexplicably we do not hear, nor do we see the practice of milk drinking in schools. What we do see are plenty of obese children and all these happening when Singapore is considerably wealthier than when it was in the 1960s and 1970s.
Substituting fat-laden foods in school tuckshops and canteens with nourishing milk is just what is needed.