Sunday, September 16, 2012

New women's committee to focus on unhealthy lifestyles, cancer screenings

SINGAPORE: Women below 40 years old need to beware of unhealthy lifestyle issues such as obesity, binge drinking and smoking while older women should be mindful of the need for screening for illnesses such as breast and cervical cancers.

These are the findings by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) together with the newly-formed Women's Health Advisory Committee (WHAC).

And more is being done to raise awareness of these health issues among women.

According to the HPB, 40 per cent of Singaporean women aged 50 to 69 years old undergo regular breast cancer screening.

In Finland, the rate is 84 per cent.

And Minister of State for Health and Manpower, Dr Amy Khor, said that women must make the effort to remain healthy and happy as they play multiple roles and have a longer life expectancy.

"They live longer and it is important for women to take care of their health and adopt good health habits early, so that they do not just live long, but they live well, have a good quality of life, and have peace of mind. Having a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, healthy eating habits and regular health screenings, will (help women to) avoid or delay the onset of chronic disease," she said.

According to the Department of Statistics, life expectancy for women is 84.3 years while it is 79.6 for men.

So the Women's Health Advisory Committee will champion women's health.

The committee comprises 14 women leaders and will assist the HPB in refining its health programmes for women.

Ang Hak Seng, CEO of the Health Promotion Board, said: "Many of the ideas are bottom up. It's no longer HPB providing or thinking that this is the solution that is best for women's health. Instead, the solution comes from the women's group themselves.

"And that is why the composition of the Women's Health Advisory Committee is so important. It's deliberately chosen so that we can reach out to the people sector, in this case the community, the public sector, government departments so that government operates as one, and also private sectors.

"Because private sector also has resources that we can tap on so that we can encourage and build a community whereby we can have better health for the women," he said.

A comprehensive women's health booklet titled "My Journey to Better Health" was also launched.

HPB aims to distribute 30,000 copies of the booklet by November in a tie up with women's magazines. The booklet is also available online at

The committee is working with HPB to prepare a Women's Health Plan that will highlight key areas in health promotion programmes for women across their lifespan.

It will also work with organisations and community groups to form a Women's Network to roll out accessible and affordable women's health programmes at workplaces and in the community.

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