S ingapore residents today enjoy good health with high life expectancy and low mortality rates. However, in spite of this positive outlook, there is a constant need to mitigate the onset of chronic diseases that is inevitable with an ageing population. This is why it is necessary for Singaporeans to make conscious efforts to adopt healthy behaviours and make healthy living a priority.
To encourage the adoption of healthy living, customised programmes are implemented to target children, youth, adults and the elderly including the Healthy Meals in Childcare Centres programme, the National Steps Challenge, I Quit, Sundays at the Park and the Healthy Workplace Ecosystem. These programmes are shaped and executed by a dedicated team of HPB staff – individuals who devote themselves to driving nationwide health promotion and ensuring disease prevention. Today, we speak to two such individuals, HPB scholars Isaac Yee and Nashita Pillay.
Where Passion meets the Heart
Isaac and Nashita always knew they wanted to cultivate healthy habits among people. Isaac saw health and fitness as central to his well-being and sought to advocate their importance to his loved ones and friends. “I remember encouraging my parents to be less sedentary and to buy healthier food. Back in school, I would also ask my friends to buy siu dai drinks,” he shares amicably.
HPB Undergraduate Mid-Term Local Scholar
Senior Executive, Commercial Partnership, Corporate & Industry Partnerships Division
On the other hand, Singapore Sports School alumnus Nashita was initially drawn to a nutritionist career. “Health is something I find intriguing. I wanted to be a part of something that exists to influence healthy behaviour changes for the sake of people’s well-being and happiness,” she muses. As time went by, she drew connections between her aspirations and HPB’s steadfast mission, eventually deciding that this was an organisation with a purpose she wanted to serve.
The duo then applied for the HPB Undergraduate Mid-Term Local Scholarship while they were psychology students in university – and the rest is history!
Shaping Behavioural Outcomes
With their scholarship, Isaac and Nashita had the opportunity to do their internships with HPB. This gave them a preview of HPB’s working culture and allowed them to acquire valuable insights about the workforce.
Isaac commenced his internship with the Research and Analysis Department where he learnt how HPB surveys health behaviours of Singaporeans and uses this data to develop health promotion strategies to address needs. Nashita interned at the Workplace Health Planning Department, which exposed her to the implementation of health programmes in the workplace for different sectors and industries. Through the internship, Nashita also learnt about the importance of email etiquette and communication skills. These experiences enabled both Isaac and Nashita to smoothly transit into their roles when they joined HPB full-time.
Today, both Isaac and Nashita are initiating positive health changes in their own ways. At the Mental Health Department, Isaac is now focused on partnerships with schools, and formulating programmes targeted at the psychological well-being of the younger generation. “These programmes aim to educate students on how they can manage their stress and emotions, interact with peers and build a healthy self-esteem,” he explains.
While Isaac targets schools, Nashita explores and deepens collaborations with commercial companies in the Corporate Industry Partnership Division. In her new role, she conducts critical research and fine-tunes programmes to enhance value, and articulates information in bite-sized pieces that are attractive to partners.
Overcoming Obstacles for the Greater Good
As with every job, working at HPB has its own unique set of challenges. While liaising with different stakeholders can be exciting and dynamic, Nashita faces the challenge of trying to balance the viewpoints of multiple stakeholders. “The challenges stem from the fact that information is spread out among different parties and sometimes it is hard to get the complete picture. The best way to overcome this is to first understand that everyone holds many portfolios and you need to learn how to approach others and ask the right questions. It’s really a matter of trying to piece all the information together and presenting this clear picture to everyone to align ourselves,” she shares candidly.
As for Isaac, he grappled with the processes involved in working with stakeholders when he first took on his portfolio. “I made mistakes inevitably, but I was constantly asking questions to learn from the mistakes and prevent them from happening again,” he tells us. His constant quest for answers and learning has made a difference in the way he approaches new ideas and shape innovative outcomes. After all, innovation is key in developing highly effective and engaging programmes.
Yee Jinxiong Isaac
HPB Undergraduate Mid-Term Local Scholar
Senior Executive, Mental Health Education, Preventive Health Programmes Division
In light of their tasks and challenges, both Isaac and Nashita appreciate the supportive and strongly bonded colleagues they have. “A good team can definitely produce better results than an individual,” Nashita says.
When asked how they derive fulfilment from their career, both of them feel that it is having the ability to influence people to lead healthy lifestyles. Isaac shares, “Delivering high quality mental well-being programmes to the young ones and knowing that I can make a difference to their lives is what keeps me constantly engaged in my work.”
Nashita sings the same tune, adding, “At the end of the day, no matter how small the task, you know that you are contributing to a greater purpose which is to influence behaviour for better health. That in itself is very fulfilling.”
This positive attitude must be palpable among those who choose to work at HPB, in order for them to shape beneficial programmes for Singaporeans. Nashita ends off with some closing words for those who wish to join her and Isaac, saying, “HPB has the noble aim of helping society through developing, supporting and evaluating programmes to help people in changing their health behaviours. If this aim entices you, then HPB is the place for you!”