Another Week Beyond – 2427

No Wealth, No Health?

Written by: Pei Ling, Community Relations

How often do you find yourself in this situation? You’re unwell or in pain, and it’s been going on for while. But you choose not to see a medical practitioner because you feel you cannot afford it.

This is a common scenario amongst Singapore’s financially-challenged – families living in rental public housing. And this is what happened to Ismail.

When I visited Ismail on a routine follow-up, he was limping and clearly in pain. He told me he had a slipped disc. I asked about the medical treatment he was receiving and he nonchalantly responded, “Oh, I’m not going. My friend recommended I go for a massage in Malaysia. It’s cheaper.”

Concerned, I asked to see his medical report. There was no mention of slipped disc. I made a copy of his report and sent it to a doctor acquaintance of mine. He confirmed Ismail did not have a slipped disc condition and suggested that a chiropractor might be able to help.

I left Ismail’s place with a lot of questions. What made him think he had a slipped disc? Why did he not want to see a doctor in Singapore, where he could benefit from subsidies? How was he going to work when he was in so much pain?

This wasn’t the first time I had asked myself such questions. In the course of my work, I’ve encountered other residents with medical or dental issues. Most of them are under 45 and have chosen not to seek or continue medical treatment because of the perceived cost.

Some like Ismail, seek cheaper alternatives. Others ignore the problem and think that whatever ails them is a small matter that will resolve itself in time. And many, especially daily-rated workers, fear prolonged absence from work may lead to termination.

But when some medical conditions are left untreated or treated wrongly, they could lead to more serious problems. This affects their ability to work, earn and care for their families – a problem that’s exacerbated when the person is the sole breadwinner. Taking time off to recover would also mean reduced earnings, which puts a strain on an already difficult financial situation. Finally, without a certified medical report, they will not be able to access financial assistance from government agencies.

It would appear that people in such a situation are caught between a rock and a hard place.

But they need not be. They just need to know there is help at hand. That’s why Beyond has taken pains to identify and nurture community leaders from within our neighbourhoods. We call them Neighbourhood Leaders. They are our eyes and ears in the community. They engage with the people they live amongst, guiding them to the health resources available, so no one has to choose between living with pain and making a living.

Neighbourhood Leaders – a testament to the collective power of an empowered, encouraged community to look after its members. Like Ismail.

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PAST AWB POSTS

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By: Nina, Community Relations I met Atiqah ten years ago when I was a Community Worker. It was at a photography workshop we had organized for youths. She was a shy, soft-spoken 16-year-old. Her family had only recently moved in, so she didn’t know any other youths in the neighborhood yet. Throughout the few sessions we held, she mostly kept to herself, except when she offered to help me with minor tasks. Despite her discomfort being around others, she always showed up when invited to our programmes. I always admired Atiqah’s quiet determination and was pleased to see her slowly

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Read more >

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Read more >