with 3 in 4 making improvements in their health as a result
SINGAPORE – Media OutReach – 27 August 2020 –
AIA Singapore today announced findings from the AIA Real Rewards Poll 2020 which revealed that:
As a result of COVID-19, two-thirds (65%) of Singaporeans realise that they have been taking their health for granted,
With more than 7 in 10 (72%) defining the true value of good health as living healthier, longer, better lives with their families and loved ones in today’s socially distant world, and
A whopping 93% prioritised staying healthy over other pursuits to get through the circuit breaker period.
As a result, a significant three quarters of respondents (75%) recorded an improvement in at least one aspect of their well-being — whether in terms of improved eating habits, physical health, sleeping pattern, or mental health — within 8 weeks from the start of the Circuit Breaker in early April 2020.
The study was conducted amongst 875 participants in mid-June 2020 as Singapore moved into phase two of safe reopening.
“It is encouraging that, in these trying times, Singaporeans have taken steps to make positive changes to their health, and they are already reaping the rewards of these simple actions. Our aim is to support even more Singaporeans to achieve their health goals, building on this momentum to enable them to truly live healthier, longer, better lives.
We know that it is not enough to only take care of our physical health. This is why, as a leading insurer in the health space, we take a holistic approach to protecting our customers’ wellbeing across financial, physical, and mental health,” said Ms Melita Teo, Chief Customer and Digital Officer, AIA Singapore.
The AIA Real Rewards Poll 2020, combined with an analysis of AIA Vitality members’ health, provided three note-worthy insights for Singapore.
#1: Singaporeans are adapting by looking beyond keeping active to stay healthy: A well-rounded approach to health includes eating well and getting adequate sleep
Singaporeans did not compromise on eating right as they continue to spend approximately S$470 a month personally on healthy food, even as they reduced overall living expenses amid the pandemic. Instead, they got healthier and saved money by cutting down expenses on junk food and alcohol.
Overall, Singaporeans were placing a high priority on making healthier choices, allocating the highest portion of the living expenses (34%) on healthier meal choices.
Aside from nutrition, Singaporeans are also adapting by paying off their sleep debt. Adults are recommended to get approximately 7 — 9 hours of sleep daily.
More than 2 in 5 (43%) of Singaporeans have improved their sleeping habits in this period, pointing to reduced commuting time as the key reason why.
This is also reflected in sleep patterns of AIA Vitality members: There were twice as many qualifying sleeps tracked on the wellness programme — of at least 7 hours daily — during the Circuit Breaker compared to the preceding months.
The need to address sleep deprivation is especially critical in Singapore, which ranks as the third most sleep-deprived city in the world. AIA launched the #OneMoreHour initiative last year, encouraging people to get an additional hour of sleep, with a content hub created to help improve their sleeping habits.
This follows from a 2019 study AIA conducted which found that 56% of Singaporeans get six or lesser hours of sleep each night and more than half worry about not getting adequate sleep or want to get more. 3 in 5 (59%) agreeing that getting one more hour of sleep would boost their mood and energy.
In addition to the multiple negative impact on health, sleep loss comes at an economic cost too. Developed economies are estimated to be losing 2 — 3 % of their annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a result of insufficient sleep.
#2: Keeping healthy helps Singaporeans better manage their mental health: More needs to be done to ensure Singapore’s mental well-being
Unsurprisingly, approximately 3 in 5 (60%) of Singaporeans are anxious about our post-coronavirus world.
Keeping healthy has helped many manage their stress and anxiety:
Approximately 1 in 3 (30%) Singaporeans reported improvements to their mental health during COVID-19 — aided by simple steps such as getting at least seven hours of sleep, eating more nutritious meals, and spending quality time with loved ones.
Multiple aspects of keeping healthy contribute to improved mental well-being.
However, a similar number of Singaporeans also reported a decline in their mental health due to increased stress and anxiety (30%). This echoes a worrying trend seen elsewhere in Singapore as a result of the pandemic. The National Care Hotline, set up in April 2020 to provide additional support for people facing mental health challenges, received more than 6,600 calls by the end of the same month with approximately 1,000 people identified as requiring even more targeted support thereafter.
#3: Singapore continues to be the most active in Asia, even amid COVID-19: Nurturing a stronger healthy-living culture a joint responsibility of the public and private sector
Compared to their counterparts across the region, AIA Vitality members in Singapore were the most active group:
Despite the pandemic, members in Singapore recorded the highest percentage of workouts tracked on the programme between January to May 2020 amongst 12 markets across Asia-Pacific.
Even before COVID-19, AIA Vitality members in Singapore have consistently been amongst the most active. For members who are active on the programme’s Weekly Fitness Challenge, more than half typically exceed the minimum weekly target.
“The success of our nation’s initiatives to encourage healthy living is evident in the continued high levels of activity amongst Singaporeans despite the Circuit Breaker measures, with many finding creative ways to continue keeping fit while working from home. This is encouraging, and speaks to the immense opportunity we, the private sector, have to continue nurturing a healthy-living culture in Singapore and improving the health of our population,” shared Ms Teo.
With more than 100,000 members in Singapore alone, AIA Vitality was the first wellness programme introduced by an insurer locally in 2013 and has since yielded significant health results:
Strong clinical outcomes  for members including improvements in glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and BMI.
The impact of AIA Vitality has been most salient amongst members who were initially reported to be in the unhealthy age. On average, they have gotten “younger”, reversing their Vitality Age by approximately 2 years since joining the programme. The difference between members’ Vitality Age compared to their biological age has since shrunk by half. Vitality Age is a measure of how healthy an individual is relative to their actual age.
Designed by medical experts, AIA Vitality stands out for its well-rounded approach to health. The programme is constantly being evolved to help members better understand and improve their own health. These ongoing enhancements are developed based on insights gleaned from data on members’ health improvements, continued research, and behavioural science, amongst others.
To help individuals and families in Singapore embrace new norms of reaching their health goals at home, AIA hosted AIA Live on 2 August 2020, an online event where AIA Global Ambassador David Beckham, award-winning chef Jeremy Pang and celebrities from across Asia Pacific came together to explore how to achieve healthier, longer, better lives together. Local celebrities Andie Chen, Andrew Marko, and Amanda Chaang were part of the exciting line-up for the day. AIA Live covered multiple aspects of health and wellness including sessions on fitness, meditation, making healthier meals, body positivity, and more. A recording of the full AIA Live programme is available for viewing here: https://bit.ly/AIALive2020SG
 ‘How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?’ (2020) SleepFoundation.org. Information available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
 ‘How does Sleep Deprivation affect You?’ (2020) HealthHub.sg. Information available at: https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1034/sleep-deprivation#:~:text=Singaporeans%20are%20amongst%20the%20most,sleeping%20well%20is%20not%20okay.
 ‘Get #OneMoreHouse of sleep for a healthier, longer, better life’ (2019) AIA. Information available at: https://www.aia.com.sg/en/onemorehour.html
 ‘Investing in sleep for health and wellbeing dividends. A view from one of Asia’s leading sleep scientists.’ (2019). Dr Michael Chee, Professor, Duke-NUS Medical School and Principle of the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. Member of AIA’s Healthier, Longer, Better Lives Advisory Board. Information available at: https://www.aia.com/en/healthy-living/onemorehour/professorchee.html
 10 Essential Tips for Mental Well-Being’ (2020) HealthHub. Information available at: https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1926/10-Essentials-for-Mental-Well-Being
 ‘Mental health fallout: How COVID-19 has affected those in Singapore. (9 May 2020) The Straits Times. Janice Tai. Social Affairs Correspondent. Information available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/mental-health-fallout
 Metrics improvements tabulated based on members’ first submission and latest submission of their health screening results.
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Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development
There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.
The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.
To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.
Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.
It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.
All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.
Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.
If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.
In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.
However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.
It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.
The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.
It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.
A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.
Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.
Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka
By Sanjeewa Jayaweera
It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.
The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.
We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.
This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.
Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!
At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.
One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.
It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!
ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!
The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.
When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!
I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.
I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.
I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.
Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!
I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.
Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.
We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.
Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?
Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!
To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.
Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.
The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..
How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!
If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.
And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!
Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.
Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.
With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.
I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.
Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.
He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.
Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.
He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!
I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:
“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.
“There is no science to beat common sense.”
But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!