The NurtureSG Taskforce has developed a holistic suite of recommendations to enhance the health outcomes among our children and youth, with focus on the key areas of physical activity and nutrition, mental well-being, and sleep health. The recommendations were submitted to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Education (MOE) in mid-February 2017 and have been accepted.
2. Co-led by Minister of State for Health Dr Lam Pin Min and Minister of State for Education Dr Janil Puthucheary, NurtureSG aims to foster healthy habits from young, by equipping our children and youth with the skills and knowledge to embrace healthy living and improve their health outcomes.
3. Good health is the best foundation for the overall development of our children and youth. The NurtureSG recommendations aim to deepen and strengthen health promotion from pre-schools to Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs). In addition, they seek to extend health promotion beyond schools to homes and the community.
4. NurtureSG is a whole of nation effort. Parents and caregivers play a critical role in inculcating healthy habits by being good role models in healthy living. While schools will do more to integrate health promotion into the daily activities of our young, we want to partner parents and caregivers by raising awareness of how they can improve their children's health, and strengthening their capabilities to motivate their young charges.
5. The key strategies by the Taskforce are summarised below:
Enable our young to experience the benefits of healthy living;
Equip parents, students, and teachers with the skills necessary to foster a healthier environment;
Educate and support parents to inculcate healthy habits in their young; and
Engage the public through various platforms.
Physical Activity and Nutrition: Active and Healthy Living
6. NurtureSG recommends deepening and strengthening health promotion within schools, and extending it into homes and the community. Studies have shown that unstructured play can contribute significantly to students' physical, social and emotional development through peer interaction and self-direction, as well as the formation of good habits for active living. We will increase opportunities for physical activities in pre-schools, mainstream schools and IHLs, to make healthy living more accessible for students.
7. In line with this, MOE will implement a new programme which will focus on lifestyle and behavioural changes to cultivate healthy eating habits and regular physical activity for students who need more support. This programme will also enhance parent engagement to sustain healthy habits beyond schools.
8. Outside of the school curriculum, there will be more opportunities for physical activity, which will also encourage parent-child bonding time through partnerships with ActiveSG and parent or alumni groups. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) will also provide students with steps trackers as part of the National Steps Challenge, to spur our children's interest in physical activity.
9. NurtureSG also recommends increasing the availability of healthier food options for children and youth. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will thus enhance nutritional requirements in pre-schools to ensure that children receive nutritious, balanced and varied meals. HPB's healthier meals programmes will also be intensified in pre-schools, mainstream schools and IHLs.
Mental Well-being: Strengthening Supportive Networks and Resilience
10. Apart from physical health, mental well-being is important in enabling our youth to manage stress well and lead meaningful lives. In addition to the extensive set of programmes and measures we currently have to promote the mental health of our students, the Taskforce recognises that students experiencing mental stress may not always approach their parents or teachers for help. MOE and HPB will strengthen peer support efforts through the establishment of peer support structures in mainstream schools and IHLs to equip students to look out for signs of mental stress among their peers.
11. HPB will also move upstream to train and equip pre-school educators to build social emotional competencies in young children. In addition, Tote Board has set aside up to $10 million in grant funding to tap on ground-up ideas to achieve better mental well-being and resilience in our young.
12. Suicide, and suicidal and self-harm behaviours are often complex and multi-faceted. In order to better understand them, an Inter-Agency Research Workgroup for Youth Suicides has been set up to study the issues surrounding suicides, including the risk and protective factors. Led by Associate Professor Dr Daniel Fung, Chairman, Medical Board, Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the inter-agency research workgroup will facilitate deeper collaboration between various agencies.
Sleep Health: Sleep Well, Live Well
13. Insufficient sleep in children is associated with impaired cognition, obesity and increased risk of mental health issues such as increased irritability, moodiness, depression and anxiety. To raise awareness of the importance of adequate and quality sleep in children, HPB will educate the public on its benefits, and promote sleep health recommendations and tips for healthy sleep habits. MOE will also strengthen sleep health messages and good practice as part of educating students for health.
14. More information on the specific recommendations can be found in Annex A. All recommendations will be consolidated into the NurtureSG Action Plan, which will be launched in June 2017.
Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore