News from Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association (SNDA)
  • Experiences during the COVID-19 Health Crisis
    Singapore has been fighting COVID-19 and our dedicated healthcare professionals have been at the forefront in providing support during this health crisis. On April 7, 2020, a set of safe distancing measures, known as the Circuit Breaker[1] (CB) were implemented. This was a strategy designed to reduce the number of local transmissions in the community.

    As healthcare professionals our primary concern is, as always, the health and safety of our patients or clients we serve. Dietitians and Nutritionists have contributed towards supporting the fight against this health crisis in many ways. Some have been fighting on the front line ensuring that acute patients receive the optimal nutrition they need to aid recovery from COVID-19. Ms. Maja Vukmirovic shares her experience in Food Service at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, “We saw a challenge to develop and operationalize a Circuit Breaker Menu. This approach was conceived not only to manage operations but for the continuity of the business as well. In order to decipher roles and responsibilities of every team member without compromising service quality and deliverables, teams were split into two sections and a CB menu was conceived. Whilst the menu was varied with different cuisine choices offered at every meal, it did not compromise on the provision of therapeutic variety for patients with special dietary requirements”.
    Furthermore, Dietitians and Nutritionists continue to support and advise patients on health and nutrition by remotely tapping on available technology. Ms. Alka Sinha, Nutritionist shares her experience working from home “work from home during CB was a challenging journey initially. Later it became more interesting by learning to use new technology such as Zoom. I used Zoom for my virtual consultations, communication and to keep up with professional development”. Ms. Jamie Lye who works at National Youth Sports Institute (Singapore) saw this experience as a new challenge “COVID-19 has pushed us to engage our audience and stakeholders online. Beyond just delivering the content via an online web conferencing platform, I found myself searching for online games and thinking of activities to make use of the unique situation we have”.

    Schools and Institutes of Higher Learning shifted to full home-based learning. Ms. Win Nie Loh shares her experience as a Senior Lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic on home-based learning “interacting with students without being able to see all their expressions was actually not as bad as I thought. I could still feel the energy in the classroom through the engagement and their endless inquisitive list of questions. There is a saying that ‘opportunity always lies in challenges’ and I have learned many different tools during this home-based learning e.g. Padlets, Mentimeter, Microsoft Teams, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra”.

    New Sugar Measures to reduce Singaporean’s Sugar Intake
    To continue to win the War on Diabetes, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) have introduced a set of new regulatory measures intentionally designed to reduce the sugar intake from pre-packaged sugar sweetened beverages[2].
    Dr Kalpana Bhaskaran, Head, Centre for Applied Nutrition Services & Glycemic Index Research Unit, Temasek Polytechnic and Vice President of SNDA has been appointed as an expert advisor to the MOH in relation to the measures to reduce the consumption of sugar from the sugar-sweetened beverages.
    The first measure is to introduce a graded colour-coded front of pack nutrient summary label for less healthy pre-packaged sugar sweetened beverages. The aim of this measure is to support consumers in making informed healthier choices.

    Figure 1: Nutri-Grade Label
    This label ‘Nutri-Grade’[3] applies to all pre-packaged non-alcoholic beverages sold in Singapore. There are four colour-coded grades each with a letter that corresponds to the sugar and saturated fat threshold of the beverage.
    The second measure is to implement advertising prohibitions of product advertisements for beverages that rank the least healthy on the nutrient summary label. Advertising prohibitions cover all local mass media platforms, broadcast, print, out-of-home and online channels. The aim is to reduce the influence of advertising on consumers' choices. These two measures have been extended to the freshly prepared beverage sector in order to better achieve the overall objective of reducing sugar intake among Singaporeans.
    In addition, another measure has been rolled out to encourage Singaporeans to consume plain water. The approach is to increase the availability and accessibility of drinking water and installations of water dispensers in Hawker centres and water coolers at bus interchanges and bus terminals.
    SNDA continues to support the government’s initiatives towards promoting the health and well-being of Singaporeans.

    Karishma J. Surtani
    Main Committee Member
    Singapore Nutrition & Dietetics Association
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