Khairy: MOH Are Government’s ‘Left-Wing Social Justice Warriors’

Khairy Jamaluddin says the government must remove socio-economic barriers to better health outcomes for Malaysians, like ensuring access to healthy food and physical exercise.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 – Malaysia requires an all-rounded plan to improve the country’s health outcomes as the health care system is largely dependent on socio-economic factors, Khairy Jamaluddin said.

The health minister highlighted various factors that influence one’s personal health, beyond access to medical care, such as access to healthy food and leisure time needed for physical exercise.

“I tell my Ministry of Health (MOH) in this government, in our government, we are the left-wing social justice warriors. We fight for, you can’t just tell people to live healthier because they’ll say, ‘I can’t afford healthy food. I don’t have time to go running and jogging like you do, Minister.’

“So, we need to remove all the socio-economic barriers and determinants to better health outcomes to ensure that when you nudge people to do something, there’s frictionless choice architecture there for them,” Khairy said during a panel discussion on “Rethinking Healthcare Within A Digital Landscape” at the ATxSG Summit 2022 in Singapore yesterday.

Khairy also called for national accounting for health to be treated differently, describing health as an investment. “It’s not some line item on the budget,” Khairy said.

“Why are we penalised by rating agencies when we spend on health care? Why are we penalised when health care – because the expenditure during Covid and all that contributes towards the budget deficit? 

“There needs to be a different way our bean counters and Treasury think about health care because it is a return on investment,” Khairy said.

Khairy had previously called for health budgets to be viewed as investments, rather than expenditures, to cut rising mortality and incidence rates of chronic diseases, particularly cancer.

The health minister said investments can be channelled into early detection and novel treatment to reduce the burden of cancer disease on the health care system that was exacerbated by Covid-19.

Citing the MOH’s National Cancer Registry Report 2012–2016 released last year, he said almost 70 per cent of all cancer cases were diagnosed late at Stages Three and Four, resulting in fewer options for treatment and poorer survival rates.

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