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Singapore Government Enhances Monitoring of Fitness Trackers to Improve Citizens Health

The government and insurance companies that pay hospital bills are attempting to keep people healthy in any way they can. Singapore has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and its residents have the healthiest years in the world, with 73.9 years in 2019 – beating the Japanese, who were second with 73.3 years of good health.

This is largely due to three major factors: a strong healthcare system that provides high-quality medical care to all who need it in a timely manner; a robust immunisation programme that protects against many preventable diseases; and people who live a healthy lifestyle, which lowers their risk of serious illness.

Over the years, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has emphasised the importance of exercise. The number of participants in the Board’s National Steps Challenge has increased from 156,000 in 2015 when it was launched to 913,000 in the fifth session, which ended earlier this year. The Board of Directors offers incentives to those who sign up. They include a free steps tracker for those who don’t already have one, as well as prizes such as airline tickets for teams and individuals. There are also vouchers available to those who complete the required number of daily steps.

After it was disclosed that 341,000 excess fitness trackers worth S$5.39 million were not used, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) now tracks movement across and at all distribution channels daily to detect signs of excesses building up.

To encourage people to exercise more, the trackers were given away for free to eligible participants who signed up for the National Steps Challenge. Depending on the model, each tracker costs between S$10.38 and S$24.90. AGO also discovered that some of the trackers had rotten straps and watch faces and that the remaining 35%’s two-year warranty will expire in December of this year.

Following this revelation, a Member of Parliament (MP) from the Workers’ Party (WP) raised a parliamentary question asking whether HPB will consider distributing all of the still-functional fitness trackers from the 341,000 excess fitness trackers purchased for the National Steps Challenge.

In response, Health Minister said in a written reply on Tuesday (3 Aug) that HPB has enhanced the processes for central monitoring of the movement and stocks of fitness trackers. “HPB now tracks movement across and at all distribution channels closely on a daily basis to detect signs of excesses building up. Audits and physical stock checks will also be done twice a year instead of annually.

“Excess inventory from previous years will be counted towards providing trackers for the following year’s activity,” said the Minister. He noted that 120,000 of the total excess fitness trackers remain functional, of which 48,000 were used to replace trackers that are faulty or with expired warranties.

About 3,000 trackers have also been used to support community partners, companies, and other government agencies in their health and wellness initiatives. The remaining 69,000 functional trackers will continue to be used for similar purposes, he added.

“Unfortunately, the rest of the excess fitness trackers have been disposed of, as they have exceeded the average useful life or were no longer functional,” he said.

“Moving forward, HPB will be more conservative in its projections of the number of fitness trackers to be procured,” he asserted, adding that any additional purchase of trackers will be done only when excess bookings are received from participants.

The minister also asserted that HPB has expanded the replacement criteria for the 1-to-1 exchange and will proactively notify participants so that they will come forward to exchange the trackers if their trackers are defective. MOH will closely monitor the implementation of these measures and collaborate with HPB to ensure accountability and the prudent use of resources as we continue to encourage Singaporeans to live healthier lifestyles.

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