Precision medicine key to preventing disease developing later in life, Singapore News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – An individual’s genes can determine the amount of risk he has of developing life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and in turn allows for early intervention.

This is central to the precision medicine programme here, said Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, the chief health scientist from the Ministry of Health and executive director at the Healthcare Transformation Office.

Prof Tan told a webinar on Wednesday (Nov 25) that the programme looks at the genome sequences of participants to help determine the cumulative risks of different diseases based on their genes.

This can be particularly useful for some complaints like premature heart disease, added Prof Tan, who was joined on the webinar panel by Prudential chief executive Dennis Tan and Health Promotion Board (HPB) CEO Zee Yoong Kang.

The event, which covered a broad range of health topics from diabetes and vaccines to strategies on how to stay healthy, is part of The Straits Times Reset 2021 webinar series. It was sponsored by Prudential and moderated by ST senior health correspondent Salma Khalik.

Prof Tan told the webinar that a condition known as familial hypercholesterolemia is caused when a person has a gene that results in high cholesterol levels at a much younger age. If that gene is present, the individual will have up to 20 times higher risk of heart disease – and at an earlier age.

“And then if we identify somebody, we can also test the family. So these preventive strategies will be part of precision health,” he added.

The HPB is working to make use of the clinical, behavioural and digital data as well as genetic data – with patient consent – to identify those at higher risk to allow for early intervention.

Prudential’s Mr Tan said Singaporeans need not be worried about being part of the programme or be concerned if they find out their genome sequences. Having “bad” genes will not make it harder for them to secure insurance policies, he assured.

Privacy is really important, Mr Tan said, adding that “we (Prudential) are very, very careful about such things”.

He said individuals ultimately have to take charge of their own health and should find out more. He said: “Preventive healthcare is all about them being in the driver’s seat, and going through the whole process of early detection, health screening and all.

“So I think as insurers, we will definitely support them.”

Ms Khalik noted that if a person learns that he is at a high risk of getting a certain disease, it will give him the time and opportunity to act before the ailment takes hold.

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North Carolina Gov. Cooper signs order preventing evictions

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order Wednesday preventing landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to pay their rent.

The order, which aims to clarify an existing residential eviction moratorium outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will remain in effect for the rest of the year.

“Many families are trying to do the right thing,” Cooper said in a news conference. “They’re having to make tough choices, but this virus has made it difficult.”

A report prepared for the National Council of State Housing Agencies estimated 300,000 to 410,000 households in the state are unable to pay rent and are at risk of eviction, and 240,000 eviction filings could be submitted by January 2021. Together, landlords face a rental shortfall ranging from $632 million to $824 million.

The order notes that the CDC moratorium applies to all eligible residents, regardless of whether they live on federally subsidized housing.


“The result during this global pandemic will be more North Carolinians staying in their homes, more landlords getting paid rent and fewer utility companies shutting off of power,” Cooper said.

The governor’s announcement comes at a time when the state is grappling with an uptick in coronavirus cases, which Cooper does not yet consider a “spike.”

The state partially reopened bars, amusement parks and movie theaters earlier this month while easing indoor and outdoor gathering restrictions. Large venues such as football stadiums also have been able to have more fans in attendance for games.

The so-called Phase 3 reopening plan ends Nov. 13, giving Cooper about two more weeks to decide whether to ease or tighten current restrictions.

“We don’t have plans to go back,” Cooper said.

In the days and weeks leading up to the general election, President Donald Trump’s campaign has all but camped out in North Carolina, hosting a series of rallies with thousands of attendees crammed together with little physical separation from one another and minimal mask wearing, though the Trump campaign has been more proactive in handing out face coverings to attendees.

Cooper and Mandy Cohen, secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services, did not say Wednesday whether any positive coronavirus cases have emerged as a result of Trump’s rallies. They noted the state has struggled to get residents who test positive for COVID-19 to answer their phones and respond to questions from public health officials tracing contacts and sources of transmission. Even when people do respond and answer all questions, it can still be difficult to pinpoint an exact location where they became infected.

Cooper said white, rural voters in North Carolina have increasingly tested positive for the virus. This group represents a strong share of people who attend Trump campaign events.

Cohen’s office told The Associated Press in a statement earlier this month that it wasn’t aware of “any cases connected to rallies held by President Trump in North Carolina in September.”

The state reported its highest single-day increase of confirmed coronavirus cases

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