GovInsider’s annual flagship event, the Festival of Innovation, dove deep into the innovations that have not just kept government agencies afloat, but have helped create ripples of impact across the finance, sustainability, design, and healthcare sectors. This year, the in-person event took place from 13 to 14 July 2022 at Raffles City Convention Centre, free for public sector officials.

Joining us on the Leveraging innovation for mental health panel was Ms Joanna Chan, Group Director, Programmes, Health Promotion Board. Ms Chan heads the Programmes Group in HPB, the team behind helping Singapore citizens change their lifestyles for the better.

Ms Chan has more than 25 years of experience in the private sector. Prior to joining HPB, she was the Vice President of Mobile Services in StarHub, where she oversaw the business performance and overall accountability of the Singapore-based telecommunications provider.

Can you share the most fulfilling or meaningful project you were involved in recently?

It is important that we understand mental well-being to be as important as our physical health. We need to take active steps to care for mental well-being and reach out for support when needed. That is why HPB started a multi-year “It’s OKAY to Reach Out” campaign last year, to encourage Singaporeans to talk about mental health. This is the first nationwide campaign to normalise mental health and well-being. It is certainly a key milestone for us, as mental health has always been a taboo topic that people usually shun away from. Hence, to be able to take the first step to spark conversations in this area is certainly very meaningful to me.

As part of the campaign, a series of radio talk shows in vernacular languages, community dialogue sessions, activity-based workshops and educational webinars were organised for Singaporeans to learn more about mental well-being. It is very heartening to see partners also do their part in encouraging Singaporeans to care for their mental wellbeing. For instance, all 17 Group Representation Constituency (GRCs) co-organised the community dialogue sessions with us.

What is an innovative project in government that you were most excited about this past year? This can be up-and-coming digital tools, or a new way of work that your organisation has implemented.

In November last year, HPB launched a one-stop online portal, MindSG (MindSG.gov.sg) for national mental health resources to address the challenges of Singaporeans having to navigate numerous online resources on mental health and well-being.

MindSG was developed in collaboration with nine other whole-of-government (WOG) partners and pulls together content curated by mental health experts, such as doctors and psychologists. It offers Singaporeans credible, reliable and convenient access to resources that can support them in looking after their own mental well-being, as well as that of their family and friends. It is exciting that so many government agencies are banding together to promote mental health and well-being for Singaporeans.

Since the launch in November 2021, the portal has had more than 470,000 unique page views. This portal has recently been enhanced to include self-assessment tools and will be progressively enhanced to introduce more topics for the public.

What is a new frontier that you believe governments today should explore further, and how do you think it can change the way governments work or help you better serve citizens?

As our society progresses, the needs of the residents also become more varied. A one-size-fits-all solution will be unlikely to work. We can leverage data and technology to deliver personalised nudges based on the behaviour of an individual, hence making our interventions more targeted. For example, the Health Promotion Board has worked with Apple on LumiHealth, a programme that uses gamification and technology to nudge people to adopt healthy habits through personalised reminders, programmes, activity coaching and other incentives.

What does the government of the future look like to you?

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Health announced the Healthier SG strategy for the next 10 years which will help Singaporeans take steps towards better health. We need to refocus our healthcare strategy to focus on prevention. With Healthier SG, we will build an ecosystem that supports healthy living and makes attaining good health easier for our residents. By focusing more on preventive health, we can move towards a nation of healthier Singaporeans together.

Who or what inspires you?

Singaporeans inspire me as I have seen how they want to take charge of their health.

In the area of physical health, I have seen how Singaporeans take to wearable technoloy to track their daily step count and activity levels in HPB’s National Steps Challenge. In the area of mental health, we noticed that there are now more conversations surrounding this topic.

All of this signifies that Singaporeans want to take ownership of their health, This inspires me to continue in my role to provide healthy living options, to encourage even more Singaporeans to adopt healthier lifestyles and habits.

Hear more from Ms Chan on how government leaders are taking the lead in mental wellness strategies, as well as from other government leaders on how they are pushing the boundaries of innovation. Watch the Festival of Innovation, 13 – 14 July 2022, on-demand by registering for the on-demand playbacks here