By Shi Haixiao, Class of 2021, Overall IC
Around 80 LKCMedicine students gathered before dawn over the two-day Pek Kio Health Screening 2018 taking place under tentage beside Pek Kio Market. This event was a joint effort by LKCMedicine, National Healthcare Group (NHG), and Pek Kio Community Centre (CC). While there had been past health screenings at Pek Kio as part of NHG's Commhealth initiative, what made this year's unique was the involvement by students from LKCMedicine who took the initiative in the planning and execution of the event on a larger scale and with a greater range of services.
We were filled with excitement and uncertainty about what was to come: Were we adequately prepared to engage with the residents? Would the participants enjoy their experience? Would the turn-up be good?
It thus came as a pleasant surprise when a long queue formed even before our start time of 8am. The stream of residents coming by did not let up, and by the end of the two-day event, we had far exceeded our initial target of screening 200 residents, with the final number at almost 300.
Hundreds of residents from the Pek Kio community wait in line for their health screening
Open to all Singaporeans and PRs aged 40 and above, the health screening offered services in line with the Health Promotion Board's Screen For Life Programme. The participants had their blood pressure, height and weight measured, and their fasting blood taken by phlebotomists from NHG.
They were then treated to refreshments provided by the CC, before continuing to more elderly-centric screenings introduced by LKCMedicine students. This consisted of a fall risk assessment, where the elderly were assessed on their speed and stability by walking 6m; an incontinence questionnaire to detect issues with urination; and a depression questionnaire to detect possible mood disturbances.
LK CMedicine students take turns to register patients and measure their blood pressure
It was only after much consideration that the organising committee decided to include depression screening, due to its sensitive and challenging nature. However, with the support of the Institute of Mental Health's Aged Psychiatry Community and Treatment Service (APCATS), student volunteers underwent dedicated training on how to provide mental health screening in a community setting, and were equipped with the skills required to conduct the depression screening.
"Even if participants didn't screen positive, they found it a fun booth where they could talk to youngsters and share their stories freely. It was a good way to raise awareness of mental health and its importance within the community," said Year 2 student Gayatiri Raveentheran, the IC for mental health.
Indeed, many of the participants left the station with a smile on their face.
Participants were offered free colorectal cancer screening kits, and pre-registration for subsidised PAP smear and mammogram, sponsored by the Singapore Cancer Society; and pre-registration for free influenza vaccinations, sponsored by Mount Alvernia Hospital's Community Outreach Branch. They also received goodie bags packed with healthy food choices to encourage them to actively participate in community events, and continue leading a healthy lifestyle.
A meaningful experience for volunteers
Year 2 student Nicholas Tan interviewed an elderly lady at the depression screening, who suffered from significant distress in her work and family. "I was glad for the communication skills that LKCMedicine had inculcated in us, to explore the patient's concerns and provide emotional support for her."
Another Year 2 student Damien Chong, who was handling registration, recounted his encounter with a deaf-mute elderly, "Most of the conversation took place via his Notes app on his phone and it was a unique way of communicating with a patient. I realised very quickly how important it was to present myself through my body language instead of something like the tone of my voice."
It was definitely a meaningful experience for the LKCMedicine volunteers, a first for many of them
The future of this project holds many possibilities to be explored by the new committee of current Year 1s who will be taking over. As we look towards expanding our reach to more neighbourhoods and communities, we will also follow up for Pek Kio, to ensure long-term benefit and support for the residents, to encourage them to take appropriate action.
NHG is ensuring that residents with abnormal blood results are provided access to doctors and other support. This effort is also strengthened by the Community Health Post that opened in Pek Kio just weeks after our health-screening event. In the following months, Singapore Cancer Society, Brahms Centre, and Mount Alvernia will also check in with the people who were referred, and those who have pre-registered for certain services.
As we collate the screening results and better understand the demographics and needs of the residents, and the efficacy of specific screening modalities, we will also work closely with our mentors and partner-organisations towards tweaking the health screening to better fit the needs of the community.
While it's heartening to see our health screening well-received by the residents, we cannot forget the people who did not appear, those whom we most need to reach out to. These are the socially isolated, the uneducated, and those who neglect their health for whatever reason. It is our hope for the future that we can take targeted measures to ensure our resources reach the people who do not usually appear for these health screenings.
We hope that this project will develop and mature to better serve the ever-changing needs of the healthcare landscape, and be a platform for LKCMedicine students from all cohorts, as well as alumni, to learn more about community health and give back to society. Finally, the organising committee would like to thank our mentors Professor Pang Weng Sun and Associate Professor Wong Teck Yee for patiently guiding and encouraging us every step of our project and making our inaugural event a success.