KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 – The Dewan Rakyat today approved the repeal of independent preventive health body, the Malaysian Health Promotion Board (MySihat), despite opposition from public health advocates.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said in Parliament the repeal was a rationalisation of funds and that the abolition of the statutory body would avoid a clash of functions with the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) health education division (BPK).
“In the past 12 years, MySihat has received a total amount of RM97.19 million, but only RM41.5 million was channelled to other NGOs (non-government organisations) to fund their health promotion efforts. About 50 per cent of the total amount went for management purposes,” he added.
“By abolishing MySihat, the government will save RM4.6 million a year.”
The repeal Bill was questioned by a number of MPs, including Bagan Serai MP Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali (Pakatan Harapan) and Paya Besar MP Mohd Shahar Abdullah (Barisan Nasional).
Dr Noor Azmi told the Parliament sitting that the abolition of MySihat will only be effective if the entity that is taking over is a better and more effective one.
He also mentioned that the move to abolish MySihat is regressive and will not help Malaysia to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and achieve the United Nations sustainable development goal (SDG) number 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing.
“Issues with sustainability of fund? Get funds from earmarked sin tax,” he suggested. “Also engage expert from public health and experience personnel.”
Dr Noor Azmi, however, still voted to abolish MySihat, saying that MOH’s health education division “must keep to the benchmark that MySihat achieved, keep the momentum and even should strengthen it.”
Separately, Mohd Shahar said that the ministry should consider changing the management instead of abolishing the board.
He also echoed Dr Noor Azmi’s suggestion of using earmarked sin taxes for funding of MySihat.
“MySihat should be enhanced, not abolished,” he added.
Dr Lee concluded his speech by saying that the decision was made following a study by a special task force appointed last year on the abolition of MySihat.
“MOH will have a proper mechanism to channel the funds to existing NGOs for their health promotion work following the abolition,” he said.
“MySihat’s scope to distribute grants to this NGOs will be taken over by KKM’s (Ministry of Health) finance department.”
The repeal Bill received flak and protests from various stakeholders of MySihat, saying that it was a regressive move.
Many of them said that as other nations are advancing with their health promotion boards, Malaysia is moving backwards with the abolition.
“I believe one day someone out there will start the process all over again. We will wait,” said former MySihat board member Thavaraj Subramaniam, when contacted following the Parliament sitting today.