KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 – Selangor residents often cite time constraints and transport issues as the primary reasons for not seeking follow-up screenings or consultations despite the detection of abnormalities through the state government’s Selangor Saring health screening programme.
While many people living in Selangor are open to health screenings via Selangor Saring, with 26,000 people screened this year alone, many of those found with abnormalities do not return for a second screening or do follow-up consultations, said Selangor Public Health and Environment state executive councillor (exco) Jamaliah Jamaluddin.
Jamaliah said out of the 26,000 screened this year, 54.7 per cent were found to have normal results but 45.3 per cent had some abnormality.
“We are actually working to make it easier for them. Is there any possibility that we can consult them without needing them to come in? For example, through phone calls, apps, [or] video calls, but we are still discussing which will be the best way.
“The challenge also is we don’t want to misdiagnose something or provide the wrong consultation because usually, face-to-face will be the best practice, in a matter like this.
“So, we are still looking [into] it. But most of the time, the top two reasons people give are usually that they don’t have time or they don’t really have transportation to come,” said Jamaliah during an interview with CodeBlue at her Damansara Utama office last October 11.
The Selangor Saring programme offers free health screenings to Selangor residents, including physical checkups, blood tests, urine tests, immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT), cervical screenings, mammograms, prostate screenings, eye checks, dental exams, hearing tests, and physiotherapy.
Individuals living in Selangor can obtain screening vouchers by logging into the Selangkah app, providing personal details such as age, gender, and identification card number, and answering a few questions about their health history. If they are eligible for the programme, the individual can then select a screening date, time, and location.
Screening results are recorded in the patients’ lifetime medical records on the app. The first screening typically identifies abnormalities but not specific illnesses. Further investigation is needed to determine the underlying causes, Jamaliah said.
“What we do is once we identify the abnormality… for example, from the blood result, I’ve only got the basic data that it is abnormal, but the abnormalities [in the] blood result can be caused by many other reasons. Sometimes, we will only have the data if they go for a second screening, or if they go for consultation and if they want to continue to analyse the result.
“That is something we are looking into right now because not all the people who receive abnormal results will come to us and tell us that they want to proceed with a second screening,” Jamaliah said.
The Bandar Utama state assemblywoman pointed out that the reasons for not pursuing follow-up care were consistent across rural and urban areas.
Jamaliah and her team have since held discussions on adopting methods such as doing repeat screenings in the same areas.
Although repeat screenings in the same areas sound easy to execute, Jamaliah said that the state government must find a way to effectively and practically utilise its resources, which can cause delays in implementing follow-up programmes.
“That’s why next year, one of our targets is we also want to include awareness and prevention campaigns in the Selangor state government’s health care initiatives. What we realise is sometimes people just dismiss it, like, ‘I can look at it later.’
“Probably, it’s not a big deal [for them]. Which [is why] I feel it’s important for Selangorians and overall, [all] Malaysians, to actually understand the importance of putting your health first,” said Jamaliah.
According to Jamaliah, Selangor faces the same non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis as the rest of Malaysia. To combat this, the Selangor state government has allocated specific funding for each of the different types of diseases and illnesses that are prevalent.
Jamaliah said she is also open to working with non-government organisations (NGOs) in doing community outreach. She said the state government has nine pilot projects in partnership with NGOs, universities, and the private sector.
She said these pilot projects provide a testing ground for the state to determine the best methods and solutions when it comes to awareness and prevention in health care.
“We sort of run a lot of different pilot projects just to find out what can be done so that we can decide later whether we can make it into a state programme, or [if] it’s not that suitable.”
Jamaliah said preventative care is her focus and mission while she is in office. She told CodeBlue that she is going to put “more focus on preventive care” next year.
“We are going to run a preventive campaign to ensure that we can actually help Selangor residents with their health care from the beginning [and] not only when they are infected with disease or at the end level or end stages,” Jamaliah said.
The public health and environment state exco said policymakers are aware of the cost-saving benefits of preventative care, particularly when compared to curative care.
Jamaliah said that treatment definitely costs more than prevention campaigns and other measures she plans to implement in 2024.
Jamaliah said she hopes to find approaches that would encourage residents in Selangor to get fitter, have a balanced diet, and to educate parents on how to keep their children healthy from a young age.
She hopes that by the end of her five-year term, the Selangor state government will have a clearer sense of their direction and responsibilities in health care.
“If we don’t have that (a clear direction), it will be ineffective and sometimes fire fighting as well. So, I think that we need to make things clear.
“I think, of course, we are trying our best to cover everything, but for certain important topics, I hope we can actually have more initiatives to solve certain issues and health problems that we [have in] Selangor.
“We also would at least want to gain more insights on certain topics because, for example, when we talk about dengue, it’s an issue that we never get to solve no matter how long the [the issue has persisted].
“And the reason why is sometimes when I sit in the meeting, I realise that the Selangor state government has tried to do a lot of things, numerous different projects, ideas to solve dengue, but in the end, sometimes I realise that it usually takes the effort and collaboration from everyone,” Jamaliah said.
“It shouldn’t just come from the state, but also at the community level, the residents themselves, to check, you know, whether the area is clean enough or not.
“Sometimes we run gotong-royong (community work), we do those kinds of checking and screening, but at the same time, it still happens. So, I hope for certain issues, we can find a new solution to [overcome] it.”