Obesity in Singapore – an overview
In 2020, 10.5% of adults aged 18 to 74 years old were living with obesity in Singapore, an increase from 8.6% in 2017. The prevalence of obesity among children aged six to 18 years has also been gradually increasing from 13% in 2017 to 16% in 2021.
The rising prevalence of obesity in Singapore can in part be attributed to busy lifestyles, easy availability of energy-dense and nutritionally depleted fast food and hawker food, as well as a lack of exercise.
Obesity has wide-reaching health implications for Singaporeans, including a heightened risk of non-communicable diseases, in particular Type 2 diabetes mellitus. The socioeconomic costs are also significant. The total costs of obesity as a percentage of healthcare spending in Singapore was estimated to be above 2.9% in a study from 2017. A recent study authored by researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School, National University of Singapore found that people with obesity have 37% higher healthcare costs and the estimated national cost in medical expenditures and absenteeism is SGD 261 million.
To prevent and reverse the growing prevalence of obesity, the Singapore government has proactively introduced health-promoting public policies and guidelines focused on physical activity and nutrition, such as the Healthy Meals in Schools Programme and National Steps Challenge.
When it comes to treatment options, progress has been made where there exist multidisciplinary obesity treatment centres in Singapore, which comprimise of clinicians, nurses and allied health profressionals, to provide integrated care for people living with obesity.
Across the Southeast Asia region, Singapore has some of the most advanced initiatives when it comes to obesity prevention and management. However, more can be done to ensure that there is uptake of these initiatives. This includes addressing stigma, which prevents health-seeking behaviour, aswell as issues of access.
OPEN Singapore: Mission and remit
OPEN Singapore (OPEN SG) was established with the objectives to:
Key activities to date
OPEN SG was launched in August 2022, with its first inaugural meeting attended by over 40 stakeholders, comprising of policymakers, public health officials, medical practitioners and academics. During the meeting, stakeholders analysed key learnings and outcomes of current obesity initiatives and policies in Singapore. These discussions then inspired further appraisal of initiatives needed and their tangible strategies to effectively prevent and manage obesity in the country. To read more about the discussions during the inaugural meeting, please refer to the following report:
OPEN SG: Chair
OPEN SG: Delegates who participated in the inaugural meeting
Designations are accurate at the time of participation
1Ministry of Health, Singapore. (2020). National Population Health Survey 2020 (Household Interview and Health Examination). [Online]. Available from: https://www.moh.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider5/default-document-library/nphs-2020-survey-report.pdf
2Ministry of Health, Singapore. (2020). Obesity trend and programmes. [Online]. Available from: https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/obesity-trend-and-programmes
3Ministry of Health. (2022). Annual prevalence of obesity for children aged below 18 over past five years, their profile and assessed effectiveness of preventive measures. [Online]. Available from: https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/annual-prevalence-of-obesity-for-children-aged-below-18-over-past-five-years-their-profile-and-assessed-effectiveness-of-preventive-measures/
4Soon G, Koh YH, Wong ML and Lam PW. (2008). Obesity prevention and control efforts in Singapore: 2008 case study. Washington: The National Bureau of Asian Research.
5Phan TP, Alkema L, Tai ES, et al. (2014). Forecasting the burden of type 2 diabetes in Singapore using a demographic epidemiological model of Singapore. BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care. 2:e000012.
6The Economist: Intelligence Unit. (2017). Tackling obesity in ASEAN: Prevalence, impact, and guidance on interventions. [Online]. Available from: https://www.eiu.com/public/topical_report.aspx?campaignid=ObesityInASEAN
7Junxing C, Huynh VA, Lamoureux E, et al. (2022). Economic burden of excess weight among older adults in Singapore: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open. 12:e064357.
8Health Promotion Board. Healthy Meals in Schools Programme. [Online]. Available from: https://hpb.gov.sg/schools/school-programmes/healthy-meals-in-schools-programme
9Health Promotion Board. National Steps Challenge. [Online]. Available from: https://hpb.gov.sg/healthy-living/physical-activity/National-Steps-Challenge
10Tham KW. (2021). Use of pharmacotherapy in obesity management. The Singapore Family Physician. 47(5): 30-35.