NGOs Want New Health Promotion Body Funded By Sin Taxes

The Ad Hoc Working Group of NGOs on MySihat also wants withdrawal of the government Bill to abolish MySihat.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 – A group of non-government organisations has urged the government to establish a new entity under the Prime Minister’s Department to replace the Malaysian Health Promotion Board (MySihat).

The group calling itself the Ad Hoc Working Group of NGOs on MySihat suggested that annual earmarked sin taxes fund the new organisation responsible for promotive health.

The group also requested a withdrawal of the government Bill to abolish MySihat pending further evaluation of the health promotion body’s achievements and shortcomings, as well as public engagement on dissolving it and on suggestions to replace MySihat with a new organisation.

“Our proposal is for the agency to be governed by an independent statutory entity outside of the government bureaucratic system. The suggestion is to place it under the Prime Minister Department. This is appropriate since health promotion transcends beyond the scope of the Ministry of Health (MOH),” said the group in a statement sent by Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association (PPPKAM) president Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar.

“The government will be relieved of financial burden to maintain this new entity as mentioned earlier. It will be fully sustained by annual earmarked tax imposed upon harmful commodities/ goods/ services, including but not limited to tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Furthermore, the group is asking for an implementation time frame of four to five months for the enactment of the amended legislation to set up the proposed Malaysian Health Promotion Foundation.

“Enactment of the revised legislation for the Malaysian Health Promotion Foundation can be done within four to five months while MySihat and MOH staff prepares to fulfil the government’s rationalisation plan. There are enough information, references and expertise from international agencies, other countries and even from within Malaysia, that can make this effort possible.”

The group further said that the new entity will function to, among others, develop the capacity of health-related, community-based civil society organisations for health promotion and to plan and implement multi-strategy health promotion programmes in partnership with entities within the government, private and non-government organisations.

The proposed Malaysian Health Promotion Foundation will also fund and support recreation, sporting and cultural organisations to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy environments; as well as to liaise, assist and collaborate with international organisations with similar missions and objectives for mutual support.

“Clearly, this new entity will have an overarching function of accomplishing effective health promotion programmes in Malaysia, beyond the limited scope of delivering health education as currently performed by the Ministry’s Health Education Division.”

The group also expressed its disappointment that the government did not disclose the reasons for the abolishment of MySihat to the public.

“We reckon the government’s decision to abolish MySihat may have been based on substantiated and justified grounds. Unfortunately, the reasons are not disclosed to the public, even to the medical fraternity, thus raising doubts and leaving many questions unanswered.”

Last week, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad tabled the Malaysian Health Promotion Board (Dissolution) Bill 2019 in Dewan Rakyat to repeal the Malaysian Health Promotion Board Act 2006 and abolish the Board under the Act.

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