Private Matters is Singapore’s first health communications campaign on Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) that aims to raise awareness of the severity of UTI and its consequences, as well as encourage adoption of simple lifestyle behaviours to reduce the risk of contracting UTI. An initiative led by four undergraduates from Nanyang Technological University, Private Matters wants to change perceptions in Singapore and encourage conversations surrounding the infection
The idea for Private Matters came about when one of the students, Jia An, shared that a friend of hers contracted UT at least 15 times since she was 18. This sparked a realisation among them that they all knew people who had experienced UTI before, some even recurrently.
They decided that their final year project was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about this common but often overlooked issue. In Singapore, there has yet to be a campaign to address UTI even though the Ministry of Health has listed it as the eight principal cause of death in Singapore behind diabetes melitus and chronic lung diseases.
One in three women have their first episode of UTI by the age of 24, but a recent study reveals that more than half of them believe that they are not susceptible to UTI, and two thirds of them unaware of the possible severe consequences behind the infection.
The survey, conducted with over 200 university students in Singapore, further revealed that more than half (54%) of the respondents are unaware of, or seldom engage in, the preventive behaviours that can be taken to reduce UTI.
In addition, the survey revealed concerning misconceptions that women have about the infection – such as 88% of women believing that UTI is susceptible only to “those who have poor hygiene”.
Severity of UTI
If not treated properly, UTI can bring about serious complications. Dr. Fiona Wu, Consultant at the Department of Urology at National University Hospital, says, “If severe and left untreated, UTI can lead to potentially life-threatening sepsis. In the long run, recurrent or persistent urinary tract infection of the kidneys can also lead to kidney scarring and irreversible damage.”
Despite the severe consequences, many have yet to adopt – or are even unaware of – the simple UTI preventive behaviours recommended by urology experts. Said Dr. Ng Lay Guat, Senior Consultant, Department of Urology at Singapore General Hospital: “UTI can be prevented by sticking to healthy habits like having a good fluid intake, emptying the bladder after intercourse and cleaning from front to back.”
The need for a UTI preventive campaign was echoed by urologists. Said Dr Ng: “There are some misconceptions on how UTI can be prevented and they need to be properly addressed.”
Dr. Wu mentioned the possible benefits of promoting UTI preventive behaviours to young adults: “By actively preventing UTI, young adults will find that their episodes may be less frequent and they can enjoy their activities more without worrying about the consequences of UTI.”
To best connect to youths, Private Matters has taken to the digital sphere to come up with bite-sized informative content regarding UTI. This ground-up movement is funded by National Youth Council’s Young ChangeMakers fund and supported by Singapore General Hospital, National University Hospital and Yakult.