Opening the Doors of Health

While Singaporeans get teary-eyed over the latest Royston Tan short film on dementia, “Ah Kong”, there is an important health message in it that the organisation behind its makings hope the audience gets. It is this drive to promote greater health awareness and social change that attracts youngsters to join HPB’s cause.

By Wendy Ng

Herophilus, a Greek physician, once said, “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”

Indeed, health is an extremely important facet in everyone’s life.
For the average individual, he is usually only concerned about keeping himself in the pink of health.

However, the dedicated staff at the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has to manage the Herculean task of actively getting health messages out to Singaporeans and empower them with the knowledge and skills to actively manage their own health.

A purpose

Drawn to this meaningful vision, Xiong Lingxi, a demure girl of 20, decided to take up the HPB Local Undergraduate Scholarship after chancing upon it through the BrightSparks portal.

“HPB’s goal is not profit maximisation. It actually serves to educate the public about the essentials of healthy living. It’s more aligned with what I want to do with my life,” Lingxi explains.
She has chosen to pursue her interest in Psychology and is now in her second year of studies.

“Psychology is a balanced combination of the arts and sciences. It is a study of the mind and general behaviour which I find very fascinating,” Lingxi enthuses.

First-hand experience

On top of studying, she nurtures her love for health promotion by actively volunteering at the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled.

This has given the youngster a sneak preview of what she wants on her charts in the future.

“I will like to raise the importance of health promotion to the underprivileged population,” Lingxi states. “Those people living in specialised homes don’t have much contact with the outside world. Some of the health messages might not reach them, or are not communicated effectively.”

Brimming with ideas, Lingxi enthusiastically rattles off her list of solutions to help the elderly receive health updates such as bringing the health messages straight to the homes and enlisting the help of the staff in reinforcing them.

Freedom to pursue

Lingxi is also grateful to be able to pursue her dreams with the HPB scholarship, free from the shackles of financial constraint.
It has also allowed her to be heavily involved in a variety of activities.

“Some of the work at HPB will involve proactive engagement of the general population and collaboration with partners to develop health promotion programmes targeted at varied settings, including the workplace and community. Therefore, it is relevant for us to gain some practical experience in event management and working with various stakeholders,” Lingxi advocates.

As the Honorary General Secretary of the NUS Psychology Society, she has learned the finer details of liaising with external organisations, conducting academic talks and has made precious friends along the way.

Fulfilling dreams

Besides Lingxi, the HPB scholarship has also paved the way for another scholar, Lin Jing, to fulfil her dream of working in health and nutrition.

“Food is not only what we eat, but it also brings about a range of psychological and social implications. It is important to increase the awareness and knowledge of the general public on nutrition and healthy lifestyle,” Lin Jing shares.

The former Assistant Grant Manager with the National Medical Research Council decided to take the plunge with HPB when she was considering various career options for her future.

“I learned a lot and was given opportunities for personal growth at my previous job, but at the back of my mind, I was still not quite satisfied with what I was doing. I kept asking myself, ‘Do you really want to do this for the rest of life or you want something more fulfilling?’” Lin Jing recounts.

The 27-year-old managed to land the HPB Postgraduate Overseas Scholarship and decided to take her studies abroad to become a full-time student pursuing a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Overseas student life

Adapting to student life again was not a bed of roses for her.
Alone on foreign soil, Lin Jing had to learn independence fast. The absence of familiar faces threw her into initial disarray from which she had to adapt and adjust.

Constant contact with family and friends via phone calls, online messaging, Facebook and emails proved crucial in her adaptation process.

Being in Australia’s largest and most populated city also exposed her to Sydney residents from all walks of life and she made new friends along the way.

“Sydney is a nice city where you can find people from all over the world with different cultural backgrounds. It is an eye-opening experience to mingle with the new friends I made in school and outside,” Lin Jing shares excitedly.

Raring to apply her knowledge in helping people achieve optimal nutrition and health, Lin Jing aims to be actively involved in finding better solutions to improve people’s nutritional knowledge and status whilst encouraging healthier lifestyles.

“I think graduation is just the start of the learning journey, I will continue to upgrade myself and keep abreast with the latest research findings around the world,” Lin Jing reflects.

And the seniors say

For those who are interested in a scholarship with HPB, both scholars advocate one word of advice, “Passion!”

“Students should check out the HPB website and find out more about the six divisions and the kind of work they do to create a supportive environment for healthy living. Furthermore, they have to evaluate their values. They must have the motivation to serve the public. It is also recommended that they read up more on health issues to prepare them for the interview,” Lingxi advises from experience.

“I would say follow your passion! It is never too late to study something you like, even after working for a while. There will be opportunities to actualize your goal, if you stay focused,” Lin Jing wisely remarks.

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