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The big national issue of diabetes and its relevance to your workplace

By: ProAge Director, Isaiah Chng

I was at an engagement lunch event with a Cabinet Minister and pre-eminent leaders from various industries. Within the first 20 minutes, the topics of healthy eating and how to manage borderline blood pressure surfaced. It seemed like everyone had a story to share. Clearly, these topics had resonance.

This impressed on me that taking health issues seriously has truly become a national affair, regardless of who you are and what you do. Leaders who understand this have tapped on it as an opportunity to engage and bond with their fellow colleagues and employees.

This should be no surprise as this was one of the three key issues raised by our Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, at the recent National Day Rally.

Of the three topics he spoke about, two have a direct impact on any workplace. I would like to address the first on diabetes. In our newsletter next quarter, I will focus on the second topic - how technology can help us do more with less.

Diabetes is one of the many chronic conditions that employees face each day. It is a silent killer of productivity. Pre-diabetes - a condition that can't be identified through health screenings - is no small issue either as it can cause one to be more tired at work than usual. On the surface, tackling diabetes or pre-diabetes in the workplace sounds difficult.

But the good news is, it can be done with exercise and lifestyle changes through strategic workplace health practices. In fact, the Health Promotion Board has already provided a pretty neat framework called BEAT:

1. Be Aware - Provide corporate health screenings at work so that employees can easily make time for check-ups. But don’t stop there as most companies do, go a step further and engage a consultant to do proper follow-ups so that employees know the full implications of their results and take the right active steps. Local statistics show that many people don't follow up with a doctor’s visit even after red flags show, which result in problems eventually snowballing.

2. Eat Right - The right social environment and encouragement can help a person keep on track. Increase awareness about healthy eating like the Healthy Plate and other healthy options in the vicinity through offline and online engagement that would be appreciated by your employees.

3. Adopt a healthy lifestyle - Are your employees exercising at least 150 minutes a week? One idea could also be to leverage the nation’s 3rd season of its STEPS challenge to encourage and incentivize people to achieve this goal. However, sustaining activity is what is most important and perhaps your company could encourage its workforce by providing in-house exercise classes or partnering with gyms to offer special promotional codes to staff.

4. Take control- Keeping one’s weight, smoking habits and mental well-being in check is a key factor to helping one get on track toward a healthy lifestyle. Having workshops or health coaching for obese employees that provide practical handles and professional support could be one way to help employees struggling in this area.

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