‘Where You Live Shouldn’t Determine If You Live’: Sarawak Health Summit 2023

The Sarawak Health Summit 2023 underscored the need to prioritise reaching those who are unreached or underserved by health care services, including people often overlooked in official statistics due to lack of documentation or social stigma.

The Sarawak SDG-CSO Alliance Health Cluster, in collaboration with the Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy, successfully convened the Sarawak Health Summit 2023 on September 9, 2023, at the Waterfront Hotel, Kuching.

This gathering brought together 80 participants from 40 diverse organisations, including civil society groups, academia, and concerned individuals. Dr Kelvin Yii, Special Advisor to the Health Minister and Bandar Kuching MP, was the special guest for the summit.

An integral part of the Sarawak Health Summit 2023’s mission is aligning with Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3), which advocates for universal health coverage. This means striving to provide accessible, high quality health care to every resident of Sarawak, regardless of their location or economic circumstances.

By addressing critical health care challenges, the summit aims to contribute to achieving SDG 3, emphasising the importance of leaving no one behind in the pursuit of good health for all in Sarawak.

Challenges discussed included a shortage of health care professionals, insufficient medical facilities, and outdated equipment. Financial barriers, particularly for the B40 group, hindered timely access to care.

An aging population raised concerns about non-communicable diseases and specialised elderly care. Cultural taboos surrounding cancer hindered early treatment, and the lack of supportive services complicated cancer care.

During the discussions, Prof. Datu Dr Andrew Kiyu, professor of public health at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University Malaysia Sarawak, underscored the need to prioritise reaching those who are unreached or underserved by health care services.

This includes people who are often overlooked in official statistics due to factors like lack of documentation or social stigma.

The planned decentralisation of health care services and the focus on primary care and preventive measures were seen as opportunities to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensure that no one is left behind.

Participants called for improved data collection to address inequalities effectively.

Society for Cancer Advocacy and Awareness Kuching president Chris Cheng said, “Where you live shouldn’t determine if you live”.

He also highlighted the potential of the Health White Paper and subsequent health care reforms to create a health care system tailored to the unique needs of Sarawak.

Concluding the Sarawak Health Summit 2023, participants were resolute in their commitment to overcoming health care challenges. United by a shared vision, they aim to foster a healthier, more equitable, and sustainable future for Sarawak.

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