• Published Date: Issue Oct/ Nov 2021

    In Queenstown, the groundwork has been laid for a future where initiatives to enhance the health and wellness for Singaporeans of all ages are seamlessly built into daily living. 

    One of HDB’s oldest estates, Dawson estate of Queenstown, has undergone large-scale rejuvenation

    One of HDB’s oldest estates, Dawson estate of Queenstown, has undergone large-scale rejuvenation

     

    Queenstown is an artful blend of old and new. In the 7 decades since the town was developed – first by the Singapore Improvement Trust, and subsequently by HDB –, new community spaces, commercial facilities, and Build-to-Order (BTO) precincts have sprung up, injecting renewed vibrancy to the area. Amid the orderly flux, older residents will best remember Queenstown as the site of many ‘firsts’.

    After all, Queenstown is Singapore’s first satellite town, and its Dawson estate is amongst the first to undergo HDB’s large-scale rejuvenation programme, Remaking Our Heartland (ROH). The town is also home to Singapore’s first technical school–Queenstown Secondary Technical School–, first polyclinic, and first community library. Today, Queenstown, which has been earmarked for the fourth series of ROH, will once again pave the way forward as the location for an ambitious pilot health district.

    Dedicated to Wellness

    Health District @ Queenstown will be a first-of-its-kind multi-stakeholder collaboration, where science-backed initiatives are piloted to support residents in leading healthy and purposeful lives. The health district will draw from a broad range of expertise and leverage research and technology, to drive efforts in the built environment, preventive health and care delivery programmes, as well as social research and technology partnerships with academia and the industry. Successful initiatives piloted in the health district can be included in future rejuvenation plans, and scaled to other towns and estates. 

    In the long run, the aims are healthier adults with more years of good health, more residents who are purposefully engaged through employment or volunteerism, better social support and intergenerational bonding, and a safer environment for the elderly to age-in-place. 

    The pilot health district will support residents, young and old, in leading healthier lives

    The pilot health district will support residents, young and old, in leading healthier lives

     

    Health District @ Queenstown is a multi-stakeholder collaboration by HDB, National University Health System (NUHS), and National University of Singapore (NUS), together with many other agencies and partners. The development of Queenstown as a health district is also aligned with HDB’s broader ‘Designing for Life’ roadmap, which was introduced late 2020. Under the roadmap’s ‘Live Well’ pillar, HDB will work to create ‘Healthy Towns for All Ages’, as part of a holistic approach to enhance residents’ physical, social, and mental well-being.

    “As Singapore’s master planner and developer, HDB is in an excellent position to enhance our residents’ well-being through the homes and towns that we create,” says HDB CEO Mr Tan Meng Dui. “The Health District @ Queenstown collaboration with NUHS, one of Singapore’s three Regional Health Systems, and NUS, Singapore’s flagship university – together with many other agencies in the private and public sector – is a great opportunity to testbed cross-cutting science-based initiatives in the built environment, to help our residents live healthily within our community.”  

    Galvanising Collective Efforts

    The proportion of citizens aged 65 years and above has risen steadily over the past decade, and with increased life expectancy, more Singaporeans are spending their advanced years in poor health. One of the goals of the health district is to help residents enjoy more years in good health, allowing them to remain in and actively participate in the community and economy. Queenstown makes an ideal candidate for the pilot health district as the town currently has one of the oldest populations in Singapore, thus presenting the opportunity to test interventions that can address the well-being of residents.

    HDB is planning and designing homes to meet residents' current and future needs

     

    Besides addressing the challenges of an ageing population, Health District @ Queenstown also aims to tackle other issues common in urban cities, such as obesity and poorer mental health.  Developing effective solutions to these health issues would, however, require an integrated approach. 

    As NUHS Senior Advisor and NUS Senior Vice President Professor John Wong explains, no organisation has all the expertise or resources to address the multiple determinants of health: “With residents at the core, we will co-create solutions for the health district with the Queenstown community, in line with the Singapore Together movement.  And beyond NUS, NUHS and HDB, our collaborators will also involve multiple government agencies and private organisations.” 

    The plans for the health district have far-reaching impact and are necessarily ambitious. “We will be a super-aged society by 2026, where more than 20% of our population are 65 years and older,” Professor Wong says. “If we can create a Singapore where people live long, live well, and with cohesion across all members of our community, we will have a Singapore that everyone will want to be a part of, now and for generations to come.” 

    Perspective of upgrading at Clarence Lane, where residents can relax and recharge amidst greenery

    Perspective of upgrading at Clarence Lane, where residents can relax and recharge amidst greenery

     

    Professor John Wong and HDB Group Director of Research & Planning, Dr Chong Fook Loong, share their thoughts on the development of Health District @ Queenstown.

    Interview with Professor John Wong

    Q. Can you share how you envision Health District @ Queenstown to be? 

    Professor Wong: Our vision for Health District @ Queenstown is an inclusive community that leads healthy, active and productive lives across their life course in a quality living environment, which sustainably addresses the determinants of health (social, economic, behavioural and structural) and enables ageing-in-place. We hope to work with the residents and the public, social, and private sectors to develop scalable and sustainable programmes. If this can be done sustainably in Queenstown, similar programmes can be adopted across Singapore.

    Q. How will the initiatives rolled out in Health District @ Queenstown impact residents’ overall health and well-being? 

    Professor Wong: By focusing our programmes in the community, harnessing a multi-stakeholder approach, and addressing the determinants of health, there is strong evidence that our 4 themes of increasing healthy longevity, enabling purposeful longevity, promoting intergenerational cohesion, and helping people remain in the community where they have spent a significant part of their lives, will improve the overall health and well-being of residents.

    The co-development of sustainable, scalable programmes that residents, organisations, and policymakers find meaningful, such that they can be adopted by the rest of Singapore, will be one of the best ways that we can ensure that Singapore will continue to thrive as a super-aged society.

    Q. An ageing population will have profound impact on our society, and Queenstown is the first-ever health district in Singapore that will help address some of these issues. How do you feel about being involved in this project? 

    Professor Wong: There are many like-minded people from across the public, social and private sectors who want to enable residents of Singapore to have every opportunity to live and enjoy 100-year lives. Singapore's only resource is its people. If Singapore can fully benefit from the extra 20-30 years of life span since we became an independent nation, we will all be the better for it.

    The pilot health district is envisioned as a healthy and active community, supported by a quality living environment

    The pilot health district is envisioned as a healthy and active community, supported by a quality living environment

     

    Interview with Dr Chong Fook Loong

    Q. Tell us more about HDB’s role in contributing to residents’ well-being?

    Dr Chong: Beyond building affordable and quality homes, we want to be able to address residents’ needs across different life stages, better anticipate the future needs of the population, and develop initiatives that are supported by science to enhance residents’ physical, social and mental well-being. Since the launch of the Designing for Life roadmap in 2020, HDB has been introducing new and enhanced well-being facilities and features in our new BTO and upgrading projects where feasible. These include creating more exercise opportunities in our residents’ everyday life by introducing street furniture with exercise elements, and the co-location of childcare, elderly and precinct facilities to promote intergenerational social bonding.

    Q. How will the partnership with NUS and NUHS complement HDB’s existing capabilities and expertise?

    Dr Chong: This collaboration has formed new cross-sectoral partnerships, resulting in a new paradigm of synergies that can be explored. By bringing NUHS, NUS and other experts with a knowledge in medical and social science to the table, HDB and other agencies will be in a stronger position to implement science-based solutions for the built environment, anticipate future needs, and address residents’ functional requirements.

    For example, the medical science experts can share how residents’ sight, hearing, and other senses would change at different stages of their life, how this would affect their needs, and correspondingly the support they would need in the built environment to help them in their daily living. This could enable HDB to introduce targeted initiatives for the different demographics in a town.

    Q. What kind of new programmes or initiatives can residents expect to see around their homes?

    Dr Chong: Even at this early stage of collaboration, there are already many ideas being discussed. For example, we are looking to enhance the built environment in Queenstown after synthesising new knowledge from medical and social science, explore delivering preventive health interventions closer to residents’ homes, and experiment with various ways to enable meaningful and purposeful engagement. We will roll out successful initiatives to the rest of Singapore’s public housing. 

    We will be engaging Queenstown residents to co-create solutions with us, and I am looking forward to having them be part of this multi-stakeholder effort. As the stakeholders work closely together, we hope to collectively explore innovative science-based solutions that will bring benefits to our residents’ well-being.

     

    The built environment in Queenstown will be enhanced to benefit residents’ well-being

    The built environment in Queenstown will be enhanced to benefit residents’ well-being

     

    All perspectives used in this article are artists' impressions only; actual developments may differ.