“Diabetes is a silent killer and a silent robber of life.” This sobering statement was made by Professor Chia Kee Seng, Dean of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (SSHSPH) during his talk at the recent NUS Greater Good Series event entitled “The not-so-sweet truth about diabetes – Not if but when”.
The talk was introduced by Mr Viswa Sadasivan, Chief Executive Officer of Strategic Moves Pte Ltd, a corporate strategy and crisis communication consultancy, and member of the NUS Alumni Board. Mr Sadasivan highlighted two factors associated with the prevalence of diabetes: an urban population and an ageing population. Singapore, of course, can boast both of these.
In his talk, Prof Chia, who specialises in chronic diseases and their prevention, explained that diabetes can lead to severe health problems such as amputation, stroke and heart complications. He shared that diabetes is a particularly significant problem for Singapore as Asians have a much greater risk of developing the disease than Caucasians. In Singapore alone, it is predicted that, by 2020, there will be half a million diabetics and, by 2040/50, this will grow to one million. Moreover, in 2010, one in three young people will be diabetic by the age of 70 – in other words, our children and grandchildren will be the diabetics of tomorrow.
Diabetes is also expensive. In 2010, there were 180,000 diabetics in the working population. The associated healthcare and loss of productivity cost Singapore S$1 billion.
However, to solve the diabetes epidemic, we need to take a systems approach. Healthy living is not just a personal responsibility. The general environment around us must be made more conducive for healthy living. For example, NUS could take a lead by being a “Health Promoting Campus”. We can work towards a car-free campus where people move around on bicycles or on foot; by promoting the use of stairs over lifts; by ending the sale of unhealthy, sugar-rich, soda drinks; and by substituting brown rice for white rice in the canteens.
In the future, the aim is to provide the public with an individual-based risk assessment which will constantly review a person’s chances of developing diabetes and hopefully motivate them to take the necessary changes to their lifestyle.
Prof Chia closed the talk by reminding us that although diabetes is not a “sexy disease” and does not grab the public and the media’s attentions in the same way as diseases such as cancer, it is dramatic in its own way and is a silent killer.
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.
For further information on the NUS Greater Good Series, contact Ms Chow Wei Ling at firstname.lastname@example.org