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Health Minister Gan Kim Yong: War on diabetes winnable, country in the right direction

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At the recently held Ministerial Conference on Diabetes, which Singapore hosted, Gan Kim Yong, the country’s Health Minister said that the nation’s efforts to combat diabetes are “generally in the right direction.”

He also told the press on Tuesday, November 27, that the war on diabetes, which Singapore launched in 2016, is winnable as long as all concerned parties work together.

Delegates from health, academic and government sectors from 18 countries and regions attended the two-day conference at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.

Channel NewsAsia reported Gan as saying, “Although the challenges are great and involve many stakeholders, if we are able to rally the support, and move together among all the stakeholders across borders, collaboration among countries, I think we will be able to make headway in this war…provided that we can work together, provided that we are persistent and we are steadfast in our efforts to tackle this problem.”

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Nearly 500,000 Singaporeans have been diagnosed with diabetes. This figure is higher than the recorded prevalence around the globe. Gan acknowledged that the fight would be lengthy, but said, “what is important is that there is hope that we can go forward.”

He said,

“The real results of the efforts in the war on diabetes are not going to be felt. It’s going to be five, 10, 15 years later because habits are difficult to change. Even if you change habits, the outcome of your health will not be immediate.”

Gan also talked about sugar tax, one of the suggested ways to curb unhealthy eating, since manufacturers would be forced to come up with options that are not full of sugar.

“If they (manufacturers) are able to reduce their sugar content, then they may be able to enjoy a lower tax rate, or not be taxable at all. There are different forms of tax structures so the idea is to really encourage manufacturers to reformulate.”

Gan mentioned that fighting salt would be a bigger challenge, however, and talked about how important it is to have the correct as well as the right amount of information on food labels so that consumers can make wise food choices.

He also used the example of using a grading system for determining how healthy a specific food product is, based on, say, how much salt and sugar is in it. A system similar to traffic lights—with red as dangerous, orange as moderate and green as healthy would be adopted.

Read related: Singapore: One of world’s highest for diabetes-related leg amputations

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