Singapore

A run to raise money and awareness of Parkinson's disease

When a patient is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, people may think he will inevitably die from the degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, which can impair a person's motor skills and speech.

But it is not life-threatening, and managing it through an active lifestyle can prevent secondary conditions such as pneumonia.

To raise awareness about this often misunderstood disease - the second most common neurodegenerative disease here after Alzheimer's disease - a team of 10 Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) students organised a charity run at Punggol Waterway Park yesterday, supported by the Central Singapore Community Development Council and Parkinson Society Singapore (PSS).

More than 300 people turned up for the event, which is in its second year. So far, the run, which had three categories: 2km, 6km and 10km, has raised more than $4,000 for the PSS this year.

HCI student Ivan Ang, 17, said his team's curiosity about the topic was piqued in 2015 after learning that founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had Parkinson's disease.

"After conducting some research, we realised that there is very little awareness about the disease, its symptoms and how to cope with it. Many also mistake it for Alzheimer's disease."

The students found that exercising and keeping active were one way of managing the condition, and first organised a charity run last year to highlight the importance of this.

Though there are 6,000 to 8,000 people with Parkinson's disease here, Madam Neo Siew Hiong, a centre manager with the PSS, said only about 500 or so are members of the PSS, which provides support and runs events for patients.

She said: "Some patients may not want to come out and take part in programmes because of the social stigma associated with the disease. But having support groups and a positive mindset can help them manage their conditions better."

Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam, who was the guest of honour at the event, lauded the students' efforts. "We need more initiatives like this, where citizens see something that they can add value to, and speak up for issues that may not be as popular (as other causes)," she said.

MEDICAL & HEALTH