Speeches/Interviews

February 04, 2018

Speech by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister For Education (Higher Education and Skills), at National Life Saving Day, at Sports Hub

Prof V. Anantharaman, Chairman, National Resuscitation Council, Singapore

Mr Oon Jin Teik, Chief Executive Officer, Sports Hub

Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

1. Good morning and thank you for inviting me to be part of National Life Saving Day 2018. CPR is an extremely important skill. In my lifetime, I have seen two persons close to me collapsed but saved. To have bystanders who knew what to do, it has made such a huge difference to their lives and quality of life.

2. Equipping Singaporeans with such a life-saving skill is an important task. The more trained first-responders we have, the greater the chances of someone administering life-saving CPR within the critical first few minutes to a person having cardiac arrest. And having the greater chance of survival for that person is so important. In Singapore, there are at least 1,800 cases of cardiac arrest taking place outside of hospital settings every year. Unfortunately, only 12% survive. So, a lot more could be done.

Increasing awareness and imparting skills

3. But having said that, the work that has been done so far has been most encouraging. As what Prof Anantharaman mentioned earlier, the rate at which bystanders helped to perform CPR has improved tremendously – from the 20% ten years ago, to the 50% today.

4. This is only possible through efforts such as the annual National Life Saving Day and training centres reaching out to the community to train our residents in these basic life-saving skills. I understand that the annual number of persons trained to be first-responders has increased from 32,000 in 2008 to about 180,000 in 2017. This is tremendous progress. Well done to all who made this possible!

5. Having more first-responders also contributes to safety in sports, which is the theme for today. Safety is a prerequisite to saving lives. On one hand, we want to minimise risk by taking all the necessary safety precautions. On the other hand, we must also be prepared to respond accordingly in any emergency situation. It takes awareness as well as relevant skills to ensure sports safety. In other words, it takes education and training to foster a culture of sports safety.

6. At MOE, we are doing our part because education is our key vehicle to influencing society. We have introduced the Sports Safety Champs programme to our primary and secondary schools in 2012. Participants learn a variety of safety skills such as injury prevention, and first aid guidelines. To date, more than 10,000 students, teachers, and volunteers have gone through the Sports Safety Champs programme. When I was younger as a sportsman, when we have an injury, we often just play or train through pain, and the pain will go away. That is our mentality. Today when I look at our children going through sports, they are so well taken care of and doing just the right things – physiotherapy to make sure that those injuries do not become long-term chronic problems.

7. Furthermore, since August last year, all Secondary 1 students would be taught how to perform CPR and use the automated external defibrillator (AED) during their PE lessons under the Dispatcher-Assisted first REsponder (DARE) programme. One example is Muhammad Luqman Abdul Rahman, who went through the DARE programme a few years ago when he was in Secondary 2. He has graduated from Temasek Junior College last year. Since 2015, he has saved about 20 lives through SCDF’s MyResponder app, which alerts users nearby whenever someone needs help. Well done Luqman!

Integrating technology and improving lives

8. Other than education, the second important thing we have the opportunity to do is to leverage technology. We talked about the MyResponder app which is one good way to leverage technology, but today we are seeing a convergence of technology and social awareness in terms of health and fitness. We are at a turning point where society is so much more conscious about fitness.

9. I am happy that the Health365 app, which I also downloaded, has been very well received by many such as my colleagues, staff, family members and corporates, who are enthusiastic about accumulating their steps for the National Steps Challenge. Nevermind the counter-report that steps do not matter to exercise, I think it matters. That awareness and fitness are important, and they are so much more prominent today. We are also seeing all the different kinds of wearable devices and they are becoming more and more sophisticated – measuring more of what is happening to your body. All these combined with an app can do wonders. The opportunities are so great, and we can see it happen in the Health365 initiative by the Health Promotion Board.

10. In SAF, we have just started a new centre called the Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance (CESP), where NSF will start wearing wearable devices to track their fitness, muscle mass, body temperature and heartbeat. They will start to collect a lot of health and fitness data. If we can combine the data that SAF has with Health365, and including all the Sports Hub facilities we have across the country, we can create something special. A service which can help track every one of us, improve our fitness and help us lead a much healthier lifestyle.

11. All these efforts must continue, and in time to come we will have an improved version of Health365 that is far more useful. We must continue to work together to encourage our citizens to keep fit, stay healthy, and acquire life-saving skills. I want to thank the National Resuscitation Council, Sports Hub, SportSG, the Unit for Prehospital Emergency Care, and the Singapore Heart Foundation for organising this meaningful event to raise awareness of sports safety.

12. I also want to acknowledge the life-savers from our community and the Emergency Ambulance Services. They will be receiving the Survivor Awards from those they had saved. This is a really heart-warming and purposeful gesture. We want to recognise their efforts. CPR is a selfless skill. We learn it not to benefit ourselves but to benefit others, and save others. I hope all present here today will be inspired to undergo training as first-responders.

13. Have a fulfilling day ahead. Thank you.