Public Health Medicine — Dr Kishwen Kanna Yoga Ratnam

The public health team at UMMC’s Covid-19 Crisis Command Centre tirelessly conducts contact tracing activities, risk assessments, and performs symptoms surveillance for our hospital health care workers.

The Word Health Organization (WHO) defines Public Health as ‘the art of applying science in the context of politics so as to reduce inequalities in health while ensuring the best health for the greatest number.’

Unlike other specialties in the field of medicine, Public Health is an abstract concept, rendering its contributions and achievements often unnoticed.

Whether we realise it or not, we experience Public Health initiatives right from the time we wake up and while we go about the daily grind. Some noteworthy examples are:

• The provision of clean and fluoridated water to promote physical and dental health.
• The provision of proper sanitation and waste water treatment to prevent the spread of infections
• The fortification of food and ensuring its safety and quality to prevent nutritional deficiencies in the population and the consumption of hazardous chemicals.
• Road safety measures to prevent commuting accidents.
• Prescribing and enforcing Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) policies to ensure that workplaces are safe spaces in terms of physical and mental wellbeing.

Overall, Public Health measures in our country have led to an increase in life expectancy, a decrease in infant and maternal mortality rates, and better access to quality healthcare. These silent victories are celebrated boisterously in the hearts of those working behind the scenes, to keep Malaysia safe.

However, in certain rare occasions, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic, the functions of the field of Public Health is brought into the limelight, illuminating the processes as plans are put into motion.

Through the application of clinical epidemiology, biostatistics, evidence based outbreak management principles, and collaborative partnerships, our nation has managed to keep the Covid-19 situation under control.

Containing the spread of Covid-19 is indeed a formidable task involving concerted efforts across sectors and the social spectrum. While most diseases summon the aid of health care personnel only, the Covid-19 crisis presents a unique opportunity whereby everyone and anyone can be a part of the solution.

We can make a positive difference either by staying at home, practicing social distancing, or by helping out on the field.

Tucked away in a sanitised repurposed office room in University Malaya Medical Center (UMMC) is a group of individuals who have answered the clarion call in the spirit of fulfilling their social responsibilities.

Members of the Public Heath team operationalising Universiti Malaya Medical Centre’s (UMMC) Covid-19 Crisis Command Centre. Picture from Dr Kishwen Kanna Yoga Ratnam.

The photo showcases part of a dedicated Public Heath team operationalising UMMC’s Covid-19 Crisis Command Centre. Albeit socially distanced, they remain committed to a cause that’s close to their hearts.

Every single day, be it a weekend, or public holidays, our dedicated team tirelessly conducts contact tracing activities, risk assessments and performs symptoms surveillance for our hospital health care workers in a bid to safeguard their health and safety, while they serve others.

Moreover, the valuable data generated from daily activities contributes, informs, and influences higher level decision-making concerning interventional strategies.

Although our operations may be confined to an office space, the impact of our work transcends borders. Our workspace is akin to a Mini-Malaysia where we celebrate unity within diversity and work together in harmony.

We rely on each other to achieve collective goals. We trust each other to maintain the sanctity of our workplace. Most importantly, we remind each other everyday why everything we do, is worth it.

I believe that if we all play our parts the best we can, no matter how big or trivial it may seem, the sooner our nation will be rid of Covid-19.

Kishwen Kanna Yoga Ratnam MD, MPH, OHD, DrPH candidate, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University Malaya.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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