National Health Innovation Centre (NHIC) has played an instrumental role in commercialising an idea from the Department of Food Services (DFS) from Changi General Hospital (CGH) to introduce the first ready-to-eat texture modified Asian Meals for those with swallowing difficulties. With facilitation by NHIC, CGH and Health Food Matters (HFM) signed a licensing agreement in September 2016 to distribute the meals in Singapore and countries such as Australia, Japan and New Zealand.
In light of the nutrition needs of people with swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) as well as the elderly who prefer soft meals, the team of dietitians from DFS at Changi General Hospital developed a range of ready-to-eat texture-modified meals in local flavours.
Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing is prevalent among older adults. It occurs as a result of age-related loss of musculature and function involved in swallowing and/or because of neurological, degenerative, respiratory and musculoskeletal diseases. It affects up to 68 per cent of elderly nursing home residents, up to 30 per cent of elderly admitted to hospital, and up to 64 per cent of patients after stroke.
People with dysphagia must consume food prepared with specific textures to enable safe eating. These textures are prescribed by speech therapists to suit each person’s level of dysphagia.
There are fourteen recipes for texture-modified meals including familiar dishes such as seafood otah, five-spice chicken and kicap fish. These meals are nutritionally-balanced and ready-to-eat, thus enabling busy caregivers to attend to other tasks, or to seek brief respite from their caregiving duties.
Partnering NHIC on the Journey to Commercialisation
While CGH had developed the in-house technology, CGH was also keen to find a partner who could help them take the meals to a wider market. The opportunity for collaboration came at TechInnovation 2015, when CGH was introduced by the National Healthcare Innovation Centre (NHIC) to local food company Health Food Matters (HFM). Health Food Matters is a Singaporean company that focuses on nutrition and the enjoyment of food as key pillars of well-being.
The partnership between CGH and HFM was negotiated in consultation with the National Health Innovation Centre. CGH and HFM signed a licensing agreement in September 2016. Under the terms of the agreement between CGH and HFM, the hospital will provide the technology for the meals to HFM, which will in turn produce, market and distribute the meals in Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.
From L to R: Mrs Magdalin Cheong, Head/Deputy Director, Dietetic and Food Services Department, Changi General Hospital; Ms Lim Lee Nor, CFO Changi General Hospital; Dr Lee Chien Earn, CEO, Changi General Hospital; Mr Tan Soo Sam, CEO, Health Food Matters; Ms Grace Gan, VP Business, Health Food Matters and Mr Teo Cher Hwa, Director, National Health Innovation Centre (NHIC)
“Dysphagia is a common problem among the elderly and a growing health concern in Singapore due to the rapidly ageing population. We are pleased to have found a like-minded partner in Health Food Matters to produce these meals for a wider audience, enabling us to continue focusing on research and development in dietetics to meet patients’ needs,” said Ms Magdalin Cheong, Head/Deputy Director, Department of Food Services, CGH
“The aim is to help patients rediscover the joy of eating, as many of those with swallowing difficulties often find current food options rather bland. Licensing technology that’s already been test-bedded on a large scale across multiple healthcare settings gives us confidence that our final product will be well-accepted by the market,” says Grace Gan, VP Business, HFM.
The collaboration between CGH and HFM represents the successful push to develop healthcare innovations that improve healthcare delivery and patient care in the face of Singapore’s greying population. With the support from NHIC, CGH could continue to work on improving the quality of life for people with dysphagia and their caregivers.