A Way Forward for Health Promotion and Wellness in a Post-Pandemic World

SINGAPORE, 29 APRIL 2021 – Globally, healthcare has predominantly focused on “sick care,” rather than health promotion and prevention.COVID-19 has amplified the urgency and importance of health promotion and disease prevention, increasing the recognition on why staying healthy and keeping diseases at bay is critical. Health promotion is even more important now – to combat COVID-19 and to better respond and support the growing NCD “pandemic” - a rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease and cancer and their corresponding health risk factors.

Oliver Wyman has reimagined a new way forward for health promotion, with data and technology at the forefront, in a recently released report: THE DIGITAL FRONTIER OF HEALTH PROMOTION AND PREVENTION – Post COVID-19 opportunities. The report, with contributions from Singapore’s Health Promotion Board, provides a view on the immediate and long-term implications of COVID-19 on health promotion and disease prevention. The study captures the health risks and challenges before COVID-19, how HPB has been focusing on personalised health promotion, and the progress that has been made in health promotion and disease prevention. These include learning from the digital health initiatives that HPB has embarked on since 2018, tapping on data analytics and health insights to better design public health programmes that can effectively shift behaviours and lifestyle choices. The experience and lasting impact of COVID-19 in Singapore is also explored, including the continued acceleration of digital and technology adoption, to ultimately defining new ongoing opportunities for health promotion.

COVID-19 has impacted the health and wellness situation of many, including changes in needs, habits, and behaviours — where some could have a lingering effect, whether it is less physical activity, more meals consumed at home, or shifting levels of mental well-being tied to uncertainties, or for some, having to work from home. Consequently, health promotion will need to address these, considering the population’s needs and the most effective modes of programme delivery, namely:

  • Looking into the needs across various areas of health (for e.g. mental well-being and infectious disease management).
  • Continuing to address segment-specific needs and lifestyles, moving beyond a population-based approach.
  • Leveraging online channels for citizen reach and engagement.

However, a silver lining from COVID-19 arose — healthcare saw an acceleration of the development and adoption of digital and technology — by citizens, organisations, and governments. For example, the global smartwatch industry observed a 20 percent growth in the first half of 20201.  Technology has also rapidly expanded use cases, such as COVID-19 detection2.

With good momentum of digital engagement coupled with a renewed need to focus on health promotion, now is an opportune time to rethink health promotion and the role of data and technology. Based on the challenges and digital health and technology trends observed during COVID-19, the report defines three principles that will continue to underpin the future of health promotion:

  • Whole-person approach to health promotion: “Whole is greater than sum of its parts”
  • Targeted, personalised, and tailored interventions for individuals and communities: “Different strokes for different folks”
  • Seamless integration of wide range of physical and digital platforms: “Health anywhere, anytime”

These three key principles necessitate a “closed loop” model for health promotion. The “closed loop” is a framework to support any organisations in designing and implementing evidence-based and effective interventions and programmes that improve the physical and mental health of a population. The model should distil key information from individuals (such as health habits and preferences) into targeted and personalised interventions, continuously improving and evolving based on further inputs and outcomes – ultimately creating a “closed loop” model of health promotion.

The journey towards the “closed loop” model and ultimately, better health promotion, will require capabilities, including building data and analytics-driven organisations, community activation, public trust, and close collaboration across sectors — communities, public health authorities, healthcare systems, and the private sector.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of promoting good health and keeping healthy is more apparent than ever. HPB has been focused on personalised health promotion and will continue to move to a future of even more personalisation by using deep data and health insights to increase the engagement of citizens and scale up our health promoting programmes. As we draw upon our learnings and insights, we will be better able to design public health programmes that can effectively shift behaviours and lifestyle choices,” said Zee Yoong Kang, Chief Executive Officer of the Health Promotion Board.

“Health promotion will continue to be crucial beyond the pandemic – we must carefully balance the use of the latest technology with the human touch to ensure future health promotion efforts are successful. The closed loop model is enabled by digital and technology and the step that will get us even closer to our vision of precision public health – providing the right intervention, to the right person, at the right time,” said Matt Zafra, Principal and industry lead for Asia Pacific Health and Life Sciences at Oliver Wyman.

With the publishing of the report, Oliver Wyman and HPB have articulated a view of the future of health promotion, opening up opportunities for discussions and collaborations with public and private sector organisations to define the way forward in building healthier populations.

For more information and to access the report, please visit link or you may contact Eva Tong [Oliver Wyman] or Lim Wee Leng [Health Promotion Board].

ABOUT OLIVER WYMAN: Oliver Wyman is a global leader in management consulting. With offices in 60 cities across 29 countries, Oliver Wyman combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organization transformation. The firm has more than 5,000 professionals around the world who work with clients to optimize their business, improve their operations and risk profile, and accelerate their organizational performance to seize the most attractive opportunities. Oliver Wyman is a business of Marsh McLennan [NYSE: MMC]. For more information, visit www.oliverwyman.com. Follow Oliver Wyman on Twitter @OliverWyman.

ABOUT THE HEALTH PROMOTION BOARD: The Health Promotion Board was established as a statutory board under the Ministry of Health, Singapore, in 2001 with the vision of building “A Nation of Healthy People”. The Health Promotion Board aims to empower the people of Singapore to attain optimal health, increase the quality and years of healthy life and prevent illness, disability and premature death.

As the key agency overseeing national health promotion and disease prevention programmes, HPB spearheads health education, promotion and prevention programmes as well as creates a health-supportive environment in Singapore. It develops and organises relevant health promotion and disease prevention programmes, reaching out to the healthy, the at-risk and the unhealthy at all stages of life – children, youths, adults and older Singapore residents. Its health promotion programmes include nutrition, mental health, physical activity, smoking control and communicable disease education. HPB also promotes healthy ageing, integrated health screening, and chronic disease education and management.

More information can be found at www.hpb.gov.sg.

1 The Straits Times: “Ready, get smart, go” (21 October 2020)
2 For example, Apple, Fitbit, Garmin and OuraRing are all studying whether sensor data (such as breathing rate, heart rate) can be used to predict COVID-19 even before symptoms develop.