Minister’s Advisor Warns Of NCD ‘Time Bomb’, ‘Silent Pandemic’ Of Mental Health

Dr Kelvin Yii, the Health Minister’s advisor, highlights the gravity of NCDs and mental health; the Health White Paper will focus on preventive health and mental health to overcome the “ticking time bomb” of NCDs and the “silent pandemic” of mental health.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 – The rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Malaysia has been described as a ticking “time bomb” that requires urgent attention, according to Dr Kelvin Yii, the Health Minister’s advisor.

The Bandar Kuching MP said the increase in NCDs – which include chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer – as well as the impact of Covid-19 on people with underlying health conditions should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers and health care providers. 

“Covid-19 is worse on people with NCDs,” Dr Yii told Bernama Radio in an interview on the Health White Paper Tuesday, adding that the country has seen a high rate of diabetes cases in recent years.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs are responsible for 74 per cent of all deaths worldwide, with cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and diabetes accounting for the majority of NCD-related deaths.

In Malaysia, the prevalence of NCDs has been on the rise in recent years, with the direct health care costs of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer – among three of the country’s most prevalent NCDs – amounting to RM9.65 billion a year.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the urgent need to address NCDs, as individuals with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of severe illness and death from the virus.

In Malaysia, the issue of NCDs is further exacerbated by the country’s rapidly ageing population. Failing to adequately address the challenge of NCDs could have a significant impact on the community’s health care costs and overall economic well-being.

Dr Yii said the Health White Paper aims to promote a holistic approach to health and wellness, with a focus on prevention and early intervention. 

The policy document also emphasises the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles, such as regular physical activity and a balanced diet, to prevent the onset of NCDs.

Mental health has also been identified as a “silent pandemic” that is often overlooked and stigmatised, despite its significant impact on overall wellbeing, Dr Yii said.

The Health White Paper, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament next month, will also focus on providing mental health support and resources, as Dr Yii pointed out that “there can be no physical health without mental health”. 

The advisor to Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa also told Bernama Radio that the Health White Paper would propose the integration of health in all government policies beyond the Health Ministry, as he highlighted the social determinants of health like housing, income, education, access to healthy food, and physical activity.

He confirmed with CodeBlue separately that the Health White Paper does not address specific diseases, but touts the responsibility of other ministries for health.

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