KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — The Health Ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) called today for greater focus on primary health care to battle the rising threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
In conjunction with World Health Day 2019, they noted that almost a quarter of those enrolled, or 92,209 people, under the government’s “Enhanced Primary Health Care” (EnPHC) project, which was implemented in 20 health clinics in Johor and Selangor since July 2017, have been screened for NCD risks.
“Through this initiative, positive outcomes were observed namely a 29 percent increase in diabetes tests done (HbA1c), and an improvement in control of cholesterol level among diabetic patients,” the Health Ministry and WHO said in a joint statement today.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said more conclusive results of the EnPHC project — which aimed to increase detection of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and to develop a population database — were expected by September.
“We are already expanding the initiative to 20 more clinics in 2019 and more clinics in the future,” he said in the statement.
“Primary health care offers a comprehensive, coordinated, continuous range of services to people throughout their lives. It looks at patients’ health and well-being.”
Dr Ying-Ru Jacqueline Lo, WHO representative to Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, praised the Malaysian Health Ministry’s Peka B40 health screening programme for the bottom 40 percent (B40) of income earners.
“This is an efficient, acceptable, affordable way of providing health care. It is the first step on the road towards universal health coverage—a vision where all people get quality health services,” she said.
General practitioners (GPs) have, however, criticised Peka B40 because of the low payment rates offered to them to join the programme.
The Health Ministry and WHO noted today that Malaysia had the highest rate of obesity and overweight people among Asian countries, with 64 percent of men and 65 percent of women being either obese or overweight.
Diabetes prevalence also rose from 11.6 percent in 2006 to 17.5 percent in 2015. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, prevalence in Malaysia was about 30 percent, while more than half of diabetes or high blood pressure cases were undiagnosed.
NCDs like diabetes, heart disease and cancer were responsible for more than 70 percent of all early deaths in Malaysia, the Health Ministry and WHO noted.
“We need strong primary health care, so we can detect, screen and treat people at the community level, as well as provide information and advice to communities to prevent and manage these diseases,” said Dzulkefly.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement last Saturday that all countries have committed to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, according to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
“To meet that target, we need to see one billion people benefitting from UHC in the next five years.
“This is not an unattainable dream, nor will it require billions of dollars to implement. UHC is achievable, right here, right now, for all of us,” he said.