LOW-INCOME families will be learning the rudiments of healthier living from the Health Promotion Board (HPB) under a programme called Healthy Head Start.
The programme, rolled out to 250 such families in Admiralty constituency for a start, includes workshops on topics ranging from nutrition to parenting.
HPB volunteers, who are also grassroots leaders, become healthy lifestyle guides to these families, and also visit them every week or so to advise them on putting into practice what they have learnt and on the welfare schemes open to them.
With healthy children, less needs to be spent on health care; the money can go towards the child's education and development instead.
- Mr Ang Hak Seng, chief executive officer of HPB
HPB aims to run the programme in 20 constituencies and reach out to 5,000 low-income families here by 2015.
It is first trying to recruit at least 100 volunteers.
HPB is backed by the constituency's grassroots groups and Indian self-help group Sinda and Mendaki Sense, the social enterprise wing of Malay self-help group Mendaki.
The Healthy Head Start programme hopes to reach out to 500 children from low-income families in Admiralty.
It had its start in the constituency last August with a pilot programme involving 17 families with children aged below two years and 27 HPB volunteers.
The adviser to the grassroots organisations in Admiralty, MP Vikram Nair, said the programme, initiated by his predecessor Mohamad Maliki Osman, was at first a milk powder programme, but grassroots workers realised these families had more complex needs.
'We realised parents needed help understanding the importance of nutrition; low-income families may not know about the impact it has on their children,' he said.
HPB chief executive Ang Hak Seng said: 'The reason we feel Healthy Head Start is important is that healthy children are likely to perform better in school.
'With healthy children, less needs to be spent on health care; the money can go towards the child's education and development instead.'
Madam Siti Noraidah, a 24-year-old mother of three, said she found the four workshops she attended useful.
She said: 'I learnt that it is healthier to make chicken stock from boiling bones than from stock cubes. I also got parenting and stress management tips.'