A recent nationwide survey found that many Singaporeans remain passive about preventive health, despite being fully aware of its importance. The fact that a majority find it increasingly tedious to engage in proactive behaviour when it comes to healthcare provides a cause for concern, given the heightened risks associated with recent COVID-19 spikes on the back of a prolonged pandemic.
A Passive Mindset Towards Staying Healthy
Commissioned by Lifebuoy and Doctor Anywhere to understand Singaporeans’ stance on preventive health, the nationwide study covered over 1,000 individuals. The study found that whilst 7 in 10 understand that preventive health is applicable to them even if currently healthy, a large majority of them are still opting for a passive approach to healthcare.
A worrying statistic put forth by the survey conducted at the end of 2022 showed that 60% have not scheduled a health screening in the last 12 months, despite its importance in early detection and prevention of the onset of chronic diseases, and the holistic approach to preventive health as illustrated by Singapore’s ‘Healthier SG’ strategy.
Additionally, over 70% of respondents chose to consult a doctor only after being unwell for two days, while a third of respondents associated having no symptoms with good health.
The survey illustrates that there is an inherent need to correct preventive health perceptions and educate individuals on the importance of taking steps towards better health at the onset of early symptoms.
Image source: iStock
A deep dive into behavioural traits of Singaporeans revealed that external factors such as having to deal with long queues at clinics (45%) and rising healthcare costs (34%), coupled with an internal belief that their symptoms would improve over time (43%), all contributed to exacerbating this passivity.
Similar reasons re-surfaced when respondents were probed on their lack of desire in scheduling health screenings. From hectic work schedules and rising healthcare costs to fears around finding out from test results that they have an illness, locals are increasingly likely to forgo annual health screenings.
However, Singaporeans have demonstrated proactiveness in engaging with more mainstream practices such as healthier diets (51%) and regular exercise (57%) when taking action to improve their own general long-term health – only 7% of the respondents mentioned having made no effort in this regard.
“The approach to preventive health should take the form of inculcating a systematic mindset that reinforces regular maintenance – achieved through comprehensive education and a nationwide, long-term healthcare strategy.
Where brands and organisations come in would be on providing channels and opportunities for individuals to take the next step in actively pursuing this endeavour and that is where partnerships like the one forged between Lifebuoy and Doctor Anywhere come into play,” said Khim Poh Yin, Global Lead Lifebuoy, Unilever.
The Potential of Telehealth Services in Taking Charge of One’s Health
When exploring potential solutions to encourage preventive health-seeking behaviour, a strong belief around telehealth services driving preventive health adoption was apparent, with two-thirds of respondents expressing support towards online consultations and their role in the healthcare ecosystem.
However, there is still an action gap among Singaporeans – of the majority who expressed an awareness of tele-consulting services, nearly half of them have never tried it.
This was largely attributed to their preference for in-person consults (75%), in addition to cynicism around the perceived efficacy of seeing a doctor online (56%). Furthermore, over 4 in 10 were unsure on how to engage in tele-consulting services.
That said, the benefits of tele-consulting were apparent amongst respondents who have engaged in the service – convenience (51%) and time-saving (49%) were identified by this group of respondents as key reasons for adopting this behaviour.
“While Singaporeans today are taking a greater interest in their health, there is a need to shift mindsets towards adopting preventive steps for early detection of illness and chronic conditions, which will also reduce the financial burden of falling ill.
With most Singaporeans surveyed still facing hurdles in embracing this shift, our collaboration with Lifebuoy aims to help raise awareness through educational campaigns and enable them to take small steps to secure their future health, even as we strive to make healthcare simple, accessible, and efficient for all,” said Lim Wai Mun, Founder and CEO of Doctor Anywhere.
As one of the most digitally-savvy countries in the world, there is immense potential to leverage digital tools currently available to advance health, with education and general awareness key to moving the needle and driving greater adoption.
By having a strong framework of capabilities and services, amplified by holistic and collaborative efforts across relevant stakeholders, Singapore is well-positioned to shift the preventive health needle in a positive direction.
Image Source: iStock
Further details on the survey can be found here: https://doctoranywhere.com/preventive-health-survey-2022/
This article was first published on Doctor Anywhere and republished on theAsianparent with permission.