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Tackling diabetes: is ethnicity-specific messaging the way to go?

04 Sep 2017

Image from IPS Commons (Photo by Andrew Teoh)

Half of Malays and 60 per cent of Indians over the age of 60 have diabetes, as compared to 25 per cent of Chinese in the same group. Does this mean that culturally specific programmes may be the key to tackling the disease?

For certain groups of Singaporeans, such as the elderly, this may indeed be a useful approach to the topic, says Professor Tai E Shyong, senior consultant at the National University Hospital's Endocrinology Division and Professor at SSHSPH.

But in terms of prevention, Dean, Professor Chia Kee Seng, says that there is no need to focus solely on the Malays and Indians, although many may attribute the high diabetes rates to their genes. “Genetically you may be at a slightly higher risk, but if you don’t have a bad lifestyle nothing happens. So we are not predestined by our genes,” said Prof Chia, “We are actually modified by our lifestyle.”

Giving examples of Chinese eating Malay food or Indians eating Chinese food, Prof Chia added that Singaporeans are becoming more homogenous as a society. Because of this, and because the main driver of diabetes is lifestyle, he thinks the gap in diabetes rates between races will narrow in future.

What, then, should we focus on in our quest to tackle diabetes in Singapore? Find out here:


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