Health White Paper To Tout ‘Health In All Policies’: Minister’s Advisor

Dr Kelvin Yii, the Health Minister’s special advisor, says the Health White Paper will propose that other ministries besides MOH take responsibility for health, as 80% of health determinants are influenced by factors like housing, income, and education.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 – The Health Minister’s special advisor Dr Kelvin Yii has called for an overhaul of the government’s approach to health, saying that health should not be the responsibility of the Ministry of Health (MOH) alone.

Dr Yii, who is also Bandar Kuching MP, highlighted that 80 per cent of health determinants are influenced by external factors such as housing, income, education, access to healthy food, and physical activity, which means that health should be integrated into all government policies, not just at the Health Ministry but across all ministries.

“Therefore, one emphasis or issue that we want to focus on is for the government to look at a principle where we have a health policy in every national policy, not just a matter for the Health Ministry to look at, but an issue for all ministries in the country to address,” Dr Yii told Bernama Radio in an interview on the Health White Paper earlier today.

The call for health to be integrated into all government policies comes at a critical time when Malaysia is facing a growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cancer. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that NCDs account for 74 per cent of all global deaths. Over 75 per cent of these NCD-related deaths, including 86 per cent of premature deaths occurring before the age of 70, take place in low- and middle-income countries. NCDs are primarily linked to four main risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, harmful alcohol use, and unhealthy diets.

NCDs are the main cause of death and disability too in Malaysia. According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019, it is estimated that one in five adult Malaysians are living with diabetes, one in three are living with hypertension, and nearly half are overweight or obese. The growing prevalence of NCDs places an increased strain on the country’s health care system.

Malaysia is also an ageing nation, with 15 per cent of the population projected to be 60 years of age or older by 2030, Dr Yii said.

“An increasing number of Malaysians are ageing, and this is an issue we want to emphasise because the cost of health care will increase, and we must ensure that health care financing constraints are addressed so that the quality of care is not compromised due to lack of funding. 

“So, there are several factors that we have identified, and we need to provide some holistic recommendations in the short, medium, and long term to ensure that these factors are addressed as best as possible,” Dr Yii said.

The advisor to Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa confirmed with CodeBlue separately that the Health White Paper does not address specific diseases, but touts the responsibility of other ministries for health.

Former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had previously called for more investment in elderly care to meet the demands of the ageing population. With the country transitioning towards an aged society by 2030, Khairy emphasised the need to invest in training and equipment for geriatric care, and develop an integrated blueprint for ageing-related policies to create a comprehensive national strategy. 

The Economic Planning Unit (EPU) had been tasked with formulating the blueprint for Malaysia’s ageing nation, with an expected completion date set for end of 2023.

The Health White Paper is scheduled to be tabled in the next Dewan Rakyat meeting, which is set to commence on May 22.

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