Physical Activity, Nutrition, Mental Wellbeing and Sleep Identified as Key Concerns for Children and Youth

Published Date: 07 December 2016 12:00 AM

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Physical activity, nutrition, mental wellbeing and sleep are important health considerations for children and youth across all age groups. This was revealed by the public consultation exercise conducted by the NurtureSG Taskforce from April to June 2016.

2. In all, the NurtureSG Taskforce engaged over 900 Singaporeans to learn about the concerns on the health issues our children and youth face. The public consultation was conducted via several platforms to reach a wide spectrum of Singaporeans, including focus group discussions, online and face-to-face surveys and a Facebook chat hosted by Minister of State for Health Dr Lam Pin Min. Participants of the public consultation included parents, caregivers, teachers, students and other key stakeholders.

3. Participants were consulted on their views and suggestions in five areas – physical activity, nutrition, mental wellbeing, myopia, and oral health. These five areas were pre-identified based on existing trends and served to stimulate discussion during the public consultation.

4. Co-led by Dr Lam 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.

Key areas of concern

5. The findings of the NurtureSG public consultation revealed that insufficient physical activity and poor nutrition were salient areas of concern among many parents, caregivers and students. Participants expressed hope for more affordable and accessible healthy food options in schools and more opportunities for physical activity, such as through increased accessibility to sporting facilities.

6. Participants also agreed that mental wellbeing was an important area of concern. Social factors such as issues with interpersonal relationships, lack of communication with parents, concerns of future prospects, and high expectations from parents and students themselves were raised as underlying factors affecting mental wellbeing. While most recognised the need for good mental resilience to cope with rising stress, they shared that they required more knowledge on how to achieve this and where to look for help. Students also identified their friends as a source of advice and support in times of need.

7. The lack of sleep was another concern raised during the consultation process, especially among students from Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) such as the polytechnics and universities. Besides academic requirements, IHL students cited the increased time spent on screen-time activities, such as the use of social media and other online activities, as a key factor in leading to insufficient sleep.

8. Myopia and oral health were included as topics for discussion in the public consultation. However the findings revealed that these areas were mainly of concern to parents and caregivers of preschool and primary school children. The amount of screen time and lack of outdoor play time were some key reasons cited for the high myopia prevalence in Singapore. On oral health, while parents felt that parental guidance on dental hygiene was important, they also acknowledged that it was challenging for them to limit their children’s intake of sugars and sugary drinks.

9. Leveraging the insights from the public consultation, the NurtureSG Taskforce will work with relevant stakeholders and experts to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations as part of the NurtureSG Action Plan. The Taskforce is expected to submit its recommendations by 2017, with the Action Plan set to be rolled out subsequently.

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