The combination of a hectic work schedule and a frenetic pace of activity often leads to one’s personal health being relegated to a secondary position. That is why the work of the Health Promotion Board (HPB) is important – it seeks to instil in Singaporeans the importance of cultivating healthy habits so that they are able to go about their lives healthily, happily and responsibly.
With their array of thoughtfully-crafted programmes, the team behind HPB reach out to children, adults and the elderly at various touch points and these include schools and workplaces. For Brenda Tan, Senior Executive in the School Health and Outreach Division, she actively works with tertiary institutions to identify the challenges tertiary students face when it comes to healthy living and conduct suitable programmes according to their needs.
Yeo Kai Lin
HPB Local Merit Mid-Term Undergraduate Scholar
Studying: Concurrent Degree in Business and Economics, National University of Singapore
The institutions that Brenda has worked with include ITE College West, Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM). In line with SIM’s wellness week recently, Brenda and her team set up a booth on campus and encouraged students to refrain from binge-drinking in a novel and unconventional way.
“We set up a mocktail bar and game booth on campus. The game required students to fulfil tasks but the catch was that they had to put on a pair of tinted goggles, thereby raising their level of difficulty. The game was designed to allow them to see how their vision, movement and coordination would be affected under the influence of alcohol.
“Participants would then be able to redeem a complimentary glass of mocktail, but not without us telling them that there are other healthier and tastier beverages to choose from, all of which are guaranteed to not leave one with a hangover,” she tells us with a laugh.
Aligning Their Mission with HPB’s
Excited to join Brenda in contributing to HPB’s work and the lives of fellow Singaporeans is Yeo Kai Lin, HPB Local Merit Mid-Term Undergraduate Scholar. Kai Lin is pursuing a Concurrent Degree in Business and Economics at NUS, and was drawn to the work of HPB when she was taking a module on public health in school.
She tells us, “The project associated with the module required us to explore living environments in different neighbourhoods. Each team was assigned a certain neighbourhood to go to, and my team went to Clementi where residents are relatively older. After talking to the residents and walking around their neighbourhood, I was better able to understand which elements in their neighbourhood were good for their health and which were negative.”
Kai Lin is now raring to plunge into the dynamic work of HPB and hopes to join the team behind the Workplace Health and Outreach Division, which focuses on promoting the cultivation of healthy habits in workplace settings. She shares, “There are so many small steps that companies can take to improve overall employee health. One way is by replacing swivel chairs with exercise balls in designated areas. These are things that do not require much work to implement but play a part in making life healthier.”
Both Kai Lin and Brenda resonate with HPB’s mission to be a centre of excellence for health promotion and disease prevention. Brenda explains, “As trite as it may sound, prevention is always better than cure. We promote illness-prevention by educating, empowering and motivating, and if people do fall ill, we do our best to see how we can support them in pushing them back to the healthy zone.”
Kai Lin agrees, adding, “HPB plays the role of an advocate and I like that it takes a sustainable approach to public health promotion and empowers others to take ownership of their health. To me, the work of HPB is extremely important – that of helping others help themselves.”
Brenda Tan Yue Lin
HPB Overseas Merit Undergraduate Scholar
Designation: Senior Executive, Tertiary Partnerships, School Health and Outreach Division
Studied: Bachelor of Science in Psychology, University College London, UK
Shaping her Development
In fact, a parallel is drawn between this mission to help others and HPB’s commitment to support its scholars in their development and educational journey. For Brenda, her HPB Overseas Merit Undergraduate Scholarship gave her the opportunity to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at University College London (UCL) in the UK. Brenda chose to read psychology because she believed that each individual has “a little world inside his or her head” and the knowledge gained from her degree would enable her to enter this ‘world’ to think and feel as said individual does and be in a better position to help him or her.
Brenda’s undergraduate journey, which also consisted of various volunteering stints, cemented her decision to pursue a career that would allow her the privilege of helping others. In fact, prior to embarking on her career at HPB, she did a three-month internship with the organisation which also contributed to cultivating this sense of affirmation. She tells us, “My internship at the Preventive Health Programmes Division gave me the chance to observe the immense effort put into the development and integration of different health promotion programmes. Health is a multi-faceted issue and that is what makes HPB’s work dynamic and exciting!”
The early exposure to HPB’s work has shaped Brenda’s professional development and has put her in a better position to tackle her challenges. She tells us, “Institutions work with multiple agencies to roll out various other initiatives for their students. It can thus be a challenge to convince these institutions that our programmes are able to make a difference in their students’ well-being. The insights gained from my internship experience and from my current work have honed my patience and diplomatic skills, thereby allowing me to work with schools more effectively.”
Brenda also shares that as HPB continues to develop, it is also rethinking its programmes and outreach strategies. She explains, “We believe in what we advocate and constantly look towards adding value to our programmes. Feedback has shown that hosting talks do not work for students, so we add value by developing new programmes that effectively convey our message with an interesting twist – much like the mocktail bar programme.”
Contributing to Public Health
On Kai Lin’s end, she looks forward to partake in her exchange programme at Lund University in Sweden. She chose Lund University because she saw that the modules offered there would be able to complement the modules associated with her current double degree. She enthuses, “I was excited to learn that they offered Project Management because NUS only offers the module on a sporadic basis. I would also be able to study Industrial Organisation to learn how businesses are integrated, how they are able to organise themselves and how they ensure that everyone can benefit from their work. I certainly look forward to carrying over my insights into HPB.”
And as much as HPB scholars are exposed to various exciting opportunities, Brenda cautions that scholars have to work hard to rise above their challenges in HPB. She shares, “The scholarship is an affirmation of your potential. Scholars have to be prepared to begin from the same starting point as everybody else and work their way up.
“When performing our roles, making a difference in someone’s health is the simplest way to make him or her happy. At HPB, we constantly think of what more we can do to contribute to someone else’s health and happiness. It is also important to be healthy and happy yourself, because only then can you instigate positive changes and effectively help other people.”