Half of all hawker stalls in Singapore now offer healthier choices, MOH says

The number of healthier meals sold has increased from 25 million meals in 2016 to 180 million in 2018, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

Eating out does not necessarily mean that you’re eating unhealthily, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).

As of last year, half of all stalls in hawker centres and coffee shops had at least one healthier option available on their menus, MOH revealed in a summary report of measures taken to fight diabetes between 2016 to 2019.

According to the Department of Statistics Singapore, there were 6,090 hawkers in 2018 that were licensed to sell cooked food.

Released on Sunday (Nov 17), the report also said that the number of healthier meals sold has increased, from 25 million meals in 2016 to 180 million in 2018.

The proportion of Healthier Choice Symbol products has increased as well, by 7.4 per cent across 100 food categories.

Other steps taken include a ban on food containing partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in June, as well as the world’s first ban on advertisements of packaged drinks with very high sugar content.

PHOs are a key source of trans-fat, which increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes, non-profit medical centre Mayo Clinic says on its website.

Nutrition labels will also be placed on drinks deemed “unhealthy” that have medium-to-high sugar content.

Three broad issues in tackling diabetes: Minister 

However, more issues need to be addressed.

Speaking at a World Diabetes Day event on Sunday, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong said that one in three Singaporeans are at risk of developing diabetes.

The minister outlined three main issues in tackling the disease – patient empowerment, equipping healthcare professionals and the community better, and helping people maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Regarding patient empowerment, Tong said that there was not a one-size-fits-all solution, and that there was a need to curate customised programmes to help each diabetes patient.

He cited a pilot programme by the National University Health System (NUHS) to motivate individuals to take ownership of their condition and make their own lifestyle changes as an example.

Besides that, healthcare professionals and volunteers in the community “need access to more training and resources,” he said.

In addition, Singapore has a high rate of diabetes-related foot and leg amputation, and screening is crucial for early detection.

To aid this, a risk-stratified framework is being progressively rolled out by MOH across polyclinics and public hospitals, and will be extended to General Practitioners (GPs) in the future.

The framework will look at foot screening, management and escalation to tertiary care at each stage, and will monitor specific conditions of each patient.

As for equipping volunteers, Tong noted that there are initiatives such as NUHS’ Health Peers programme, where layperson volunteers  are trained by professionals to help people with diabetes.

Through the programme, volunteers will understand the basic needs of diabetic patients and also know what to look out for, he added.

The last area is to create an environment that helps people maintain healthy lifestyles, such as providing more information for consumers to make healthier choices.

“We want to give you options, give you information and nudge consumers to take the healthier choice,” he added.

As of 2017, 8.6 per cent of Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 had been diagnosed diabetes, according to the National Population Health Survey.

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