DPM Heng Swee Keat at the SingHealth-SUTD Collaboration Agreement Signing Ceremony

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 16 January 2024

Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the SingHealth-SUTD Collaboration Agreement signing ceremony on 16 January 2024.


Mr Cheng Wai Keung, Chairman, SingHealth,
Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman, Singapore University of Technology and Design,
Professor Ivy Ng, Group Chief Executive Officer, SingHealth,
Professor Chong Tow Chong, President, SUTD,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. I am delighted to join all of you here to witness SingHealth and the Singapore University of Technology and Design, or SUTD expand your collaboration to address important issues and innovations, particularly relating to an ageing population.

Both Prof Ivy Ng and Prof Chong Tow Chong spoke about the decade-old collaboration between SingHealth and SUTD and how it has grown, in particular on the research, innovation, enterprise and education areas across the three domains of Healthcare Living Labs, Vibrant Community and Population Health and Preventive Health.

These initiatives have provided tangible benefits to the residents who have participated in them. 

For instance, several East Coast residents have shared with us fond memories of their involvement and visits to the Pelatok Art Farm which SUTD set up in partnership with Changi General Hospital in 2021.

The community farm has strengthened community bonds and boosted well-being, as neighbours got to know each other better and developed a stronger appreciation for nature.

Pelatok Art Farm, and the other success stories that Prof Ng and Prof Chong mentioned earlier, illustrate the ecosystem approach we take when addressing challenges in Singapore.

By forging collaborations and pooling resources and expertise among like-minded partners, we can tackle complex challenges and design practical solutions.

So I am glad that SingHealth and SUTD are now taking your partnership further to address a pressing issue for Singapore.

In Singapore and many other parts of the world, people are ageing rapidly. In fact, Singapore is one of the fastest ageing societies globally and will soon be a “super-aged” society.

In 2010, only 1 in 10 Singaporeans were aged 65 and above. Today, that figure has nearly doubled to 1 in 5 Singaporeans. By 2030, which is just 6 years away, it will be nearly 1 in 4.

This demographic trend has significant social and economic implications for us.

We are already rethinking our workforce, our economy, and our provision of healthcare to adapt to an ageing population. 

At the same time, we must also support Singaporeans holistically.

In particular, we must empower our seniors as well as soon-to-be-seniors to lead healthier, more active lifestyles to prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases.

As lifespans grow, we must now focus on increasing healthspans - the number of years spent living healthily, productively and with full functionality.

Enabling our seniors to age well is one of the core planks of the Government’s plan to refresh our social compact under the ForwardSG movement.

We want our seniors to be healthy, engaged, and self-reliant – able to spend time with loved ones, pursue their interests, and continue contributing to the community in their own way.

To this end, we have launched two national programmes – Healthier SG and Age Well SG – to support our seniors in proactively managing their health, and ageing well within their homes and communities.

This holistic approach to enabling active and healthy ageing will require different streams of interventions.

First, health and social services must be better integrated at the town and precinct levels, to enable seniors to remain engaged with the community and to stay socially active, and to care for seniors with needs.

Second, the built environment, both in homes and in public spaces, must be modified to be more senior-friendly. 

This includes infrastructural enhancements and modifications to support seniors, especially those who are frail or facing cognitive decline, and to promote healthy living and social bonding.

Third, we should also leverage new and novel technological solutions to better monitor the health of our seniors, nudge behaviour towards more positive outcomes, and make work more pleasant for our healthcare workers.

Taken together, these interventions in population health will benefit not only the seniors, but also alleviate the burden on caregivers as the number of seniors grow.

The wide range of interventions means that different sets of expertise will be needed to execute as well as integrate them. Partnerships, between stakeholders and across sectors, will be essential, to enable us to take a citizen-centric approach to delivering services. 

I believe that we must move towards a citizen-centric approach, if we are to successfully address complex issues that cut across different areas of responsibility, expertise, and resources.

Each of us must do our part, but together, we can address issues in a more holistic and integrated manner.

This is where collaborations, like those between SingHealth and SUTD, as well as other partners, play a catalytic role.

By working together, you combine the medical and clinical expertise of the SingHealth system with SUTD’s strengths in technology, design and architecture.

The Collaboration Agreement signed today will see SingHealth and SUTD focus on integrating health and social care interventions with urban planning and architectural design in neighbourhoods in the East. 

This will shape positive outcomes not only for today’s seniors, but also those of tomorrow. 

As partners, leveraging each other’s strengths will help to build and broaden your own capabilities.

SingHealth’s doctors, nurses and medical practitioners can learn useful design thinking skills from your SUTD collaborators, to better translate clinical insights more broadly into actionable interventions.

In turn, through SingHealth’s expertise in population health, SUTD’s researchers and students will develop a deeper understanding of community needs. 

Critically, the collaboration with help prepare the young minds in SUTD to be better leaders and innovators for the future, developing human-centred solutions to address societal challenges.

Prof Chong mentioned earlier that SUTD’s collaborations with the SingHealth family started with Changi General Hospital. The Collaboration Agreement today will also broaden the scope of SUTD’s partnership with other Singhealth institutions.

For example, SUTD has started projects with Sengkang General Hospital, SingHealth polyclinics and the National Cancer Centre Singapore.

Indeed, this model of partnership to co-create, pilot and then scale up is an intrinsic part of the ecosystem approach I spoke about earlier.

This will help accelerate our journey towards a healthier Singapore and enable Singapore to come up with useful innovations that benefit us and the world.

In conclusion, let me once again congratulate SingHealth and SUTD for this latest milestone in your collaborative journey.

Over the years, your partnership has yielded new technologies and capabilities.

As you build on and expand these links, I encourage you to continue nurturing this collaborative spirit towards new innovations that can shape a more vibrant and caring Singapore.

Congratulations once again to the teams at SingHealth and SUTD for your hard work in putting together this new collaboration. 

I look forward to learning more about your collaborative projects during the presentation and tour after this.