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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Women's health issues highlighted

Committee aims to boost screening for cancers, raise obesity awareness
The Straits Times - September 14, 2012
By: Salma Khalik
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Women's health issues highlighted PHOTO: SPH

CANCER-SCREENING, obesity, and binge-drinking will be among the issues to be addressed by the Women's Health Advisory Committee, as it sets out its vision to improve the health of Singapore's women.

Set up by the Health Ministry this year, the 14-member group brings together people from the public, private, and volunteer sectors, and is headed by Dr Amy Khor, Minister of State for Health and Manpower.

Dr Khor said that getting women to be more health-conscious will have "a ripple effect" on the rest of the family.

"Women are major decision makers at home.

"They decide what to buy for meals, they have greater influence over the children, and they are also the ones who look after or pay more attention to their parents," she told The Straits Times this week.

On the to-do list is to reach out to organisations that work closely with women, such as the Breast Cancer Foundation, so that together, the various groups can reach a wider audience, said Dr Khor.

Since its first meeting in March, the group has also asked the Health Promotion Board for statistics on women's health, in order to identify areas to focus on.

What it found was that relatively few women here screen for cancers.

For example, only 40 per cent of women here screen for breast cancer every other year between the ages of 50 and 69, as recommended by cancer doctors.

Among developed countries, the average is 62 per cent, and in Finland, which boasts the highest screening rates, 84 per cent of women screen regularly.

Similarly, less than half of women aged 25 to 69 screen regularly - once every three years - for cervical cancer, compared to over 60 per cent in OECD countries and 90 per cent in the United States.

Breast and cervical cancers are two of the most treatable cancers in women.

The committee also noted that older women are twice as likely as older men to fall and get a hip fracture.

And one in three women aged 60 to 69 is diabetic, compared to slightly less than one in four men of the same age.

So, aside from getting more of them to screen for cancer, the focus for older women would be to get them to reduce obesity and build up bone mass through diet and exercise, Dr Khor said.

Areas it will work on in younger women include binge-drinking and smoking.

The committee has produced a 100-page booklet with health tips that inspire women to lead healthier lives.

The booklet also tells its readers what to screen for, and when.

It will be launched at Ngee Ann City this Sunday.

An online version can be found at www.inspiringwomen.sg.

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