"Singaporeans are among the most 'health-literate' people in the world. But what can you do with that knowledge if the restaurant you go to only serves oily, unhealthy food?"
This was the question that plagued SLTC (NS) Zee when he took on the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) appointment at the HPB in 2013. Since then, HPB has been increasing its cooperation with industry partners to boost the sales of healthier food.
As CEO, SLTC (NS) Zee is responsible for setting the statutory board's strategies and overseeing the running of its campaigns. Much of his time is also spent working with the Ministry of Health on solutions to various health issues.
SLTC (NS) Zee, 47, understood that it would be tough for individual kopitiam stalls to promote healthier foods on their own. So HPB started to provide marketing resources for the industry.
In 2014, HPB rolled out the Life's Sweeter with Less Sugar campaign to encourage customers to buy drinks with less or no sugar at kopitiams, food courts and hawker centres. Each purchase entitled customers to a scratch card with the chance to win attractive prizes.
"At the point of purchase, if we keep 'nudging' you to ask for kosong (no sugar) or siew dai (less sugar), you'll get used to drinking healthier drinks," he explained.
Over time, when the sale of healthier food increases, companies will be incentivised to promote healthier choices on their own, SLTC Zee explained.
"As more food producers are selling healthier products, and more consumers are buying... we are changing eating habits by changing the environment."
Creating the right environment was also the secret to his stellar military leadership in National Service (NS). As Commanding Officer (CO), he led his former battalion, 700th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (700 SIR), to clinch the Best NS Infantry Unit award - for four years.
SLTC (NS) Zee, currently the 2nd-in-Command of 9th Infantry Brigade (9 SIB), believes in running a tight ship where commanders and men demand the highest standards of work from each other.
"The greatest myth is people like to keng (skive) - that they want to have an easy time. Actually, your average soldier wants to be kept busy, and do a good job," he said.
"But you have to first prove that you are a good leader," emphasised SLTC (NS) Zee. "No one is expecting you to run faster - we're talking about simple things like making sure that training starts on time, and the trainers are present."
He felt that disorganised training sessions were bad for morale. "This matters a lot because over time, you'll leave a bad impression on the soldiers. If you can't even get the timing for a briefing right, will they die with you in war? No!"
This does not mean that an officer has to be right all the time, SLTC (NS) Zee added.
"We all make mistakes. When you move out (to the jungle), you are bound to take the wrong path sometimes.
"But the difference between a good and bad battalion can be seen when an officer makes a mistake. Do the men kick up a big fuss? Or (do they) feel that this is part and parcel of training?"
Stronger and better
Enlisted in 1987, SLTC (NS) Zee has served in almost every appointment in an infantry battalion - from platoon commander and officer commanding to S1, S2, and S3 (manpower, intelligence and operations), and CO.
Asked why he kept extending his NS, SLTC (NS) Zee simply said: "I am just helping out. If I can continue to help, I will help.
"At the end of the day, a commander is a steward and custodian of the unit. I make sure that the unit becomes stronger and closer, so that when I hand it over to the next guy, it is in a good shape or hopefully better shape than when I first took over."