Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad a respected leader.

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

SHAH ALAM: Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (pic), who was named the Health Minister on Friday (May 18) in the new Cabinet of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is a respected leader in the Kuala Selangor parliamentary constituency where he is the MP.

The 62-year-old Parti Amanah Negara strategic director holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Birmingham and a Master of Science degree from the University of Surrey, United Kingdom.

He received his doctorate in Medical Science (Toxicology) from the Imperial College (St Mary’s Hospital Medical School) in 1993.

Born in Rembau, Negri Sembilan, Dr Dzulkefly served as a lecturer at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, in Penang and the Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital (HUSM), Kelantan, in the 1980s and 1990s.

Dr Dzulkefly is married to Azlin Hezri and they have seven children.

He had been a vocal political analyst and was arrested during a protest against the increase of oil prices in 2008.

Dr Dzulkefly had been invited often to present working papers, both at the national and international levels, particularly in topics related to economic development and race relations.

In 2008, he published a collection of political analyses in a book entitled ‘Blind Spot’, and has been a columnist for the Harakah newspaper of PAS and the Edge Financial Daily.

He was also active as a leader of the student movement in the United Kingdom in the 1970s and 1980s and was also a social activist in non-governmental organisations.

In politics, Dr Dzulkefly contested for the first time on a PAS ticket in the Kuala Selangor parliamentary seat in the 12th General Election in 2008, and won with a slim majority of 862 votes.

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‘Harvesting’ from the poor

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018
A man points to his scars after his kidney was removed in an operation. The International Organisation for Migration has expressed alarm over the rise in the trade of human organs. REUTERS PIC

ORGAN transplantation is one of the most incredible medical achievements of the past century. Since the first successful transplants, which took place in the 1950s, organ transplantation has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Globally, about 125,000 people undergo organ transplantation each year. This number is small in the face of demand for organs widely outstripping supply, consequently creating an underground market for organs that are illicitly obtained from the poor.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “human organs for transplants have two sources, deceased donors and living donors; ultimately, human organs can only be derived from a human body, and thus, any action in the field of organ transplantation must be carried out in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards”.

The reality is that in several countries such as India, Pakistan, Egypt or Mexico, organ trafficking has been peaking in recent years. Organ transplantation is a medical procedure in which an organ is removed from one body and placed in the body of a recipient, replacing a damaged or missing organ. Organs that have been successfully transplanted include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus. Worldwide, kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart.

Organ trafficking, also defined as “illegal organ trade”, “transplant tourism” or “organ purchase” describes the phenomenon of trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal, a grim reality even in the 21st century.

Transplant surgeon and adviser to the World Health Organisation, Dr Francis Delmonico, in an interview on organ donation and transplantation, said there is a grim reality around the medical practice.

“People who are rich are able to buy organs and it’s the poor who end up being the source of these organs. You can go to a country such as India and get an organ there (illegally) or you could get the donor coming to India from Africa and do the transplantation there. It happens every day. The extreme aspect of this picture is that this process becomes even more abusive.

An example of abuse of this kind is a story reported by world media in February about a man in India who sold his wife’s kidneys without her knowing about it. The man was eventually arrested, but the woman has been suffering a lot, since her left kidney was infected. Malevolence permeates the practice of organ transplantation in a despicable way.

Delmonico adds that there is yet another aspect about this social injustice. According to him, many rich people come to the United States and simply “skip the line”. They come to the US and supplant somebody who had been on the waiting list for a long time to get a “deceased organ”.

A few years ago, China was under the radar of the transplantation community for suspected unethical and illegal behaviour in this field. For decades, donor organs were taken from executed convicts — a controversial practice which was greatly restricted by the government and eventually banned in 2015.

Delmonico is highly critical of Iran that has a legal market for organs and it is the only country in the world to do so. He warns that even when authorised by governments, the sale of organs often means exploitation of the poorest. “It’s the same problem. In Iran the government encourages money as the basis for donors, but then there is often a negotiation that takes place between a donor and a recipient in which the former stresses the need for more money and the latter is able to meet that need.” Iran is now trying to change this practice and to do more on “deceased donation”.

When it comes to religion, the debate on organ donation sometimes turns out to be controversial, as many religious leaders tend to criticise this medical practice saying it is forbidden by their faith. This happens in all the main religions. At the same time, many religious leaders across the world tend to be in favour of organ donation.

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world, second only to illegal drug trade. According to End itAlabama (a human trafficking task force), it is a very lucrative business estimated to be a US$32 billion (RM127 billion) industry annually and it would be only a matter time until it surpasses the drug trade.

According to Delmonico, what is needed is transparency through which every donor and every recipient is identified and that this information is accessible to the evaluation of a ministry of health. The oversight by the ministry can guarantee the protection of the living donor — that he is not exploited — and that the transplantation is done at medical centres with a satisfactory outcome.

Some other transplant surgeons such as Ignazio Marino, a former Mayor of Rome, Italy, had suggested few years ago that, “the only way to tackle organ trafficking and organ sale, is by cutting down the demand of organs themselves”. The key, he said, would be to “propose hard legal punishments for those people who buy organs. If they would know that buying an organ would save their lives but also bring them to jail for 15 years, maybe those people would think about it twice”.



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Sabah has most mental health patients

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Mental health issues in Sabah are the most prevalent compared to other states nationwide, making up 42.9 per cent of national figures.

Sabah Health Department Director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi said a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health in 2015 found Sabah to have the highest number of mental health illnesses.

“We hope the ministry will continue to send psychiatrists to Sabah in order to cater to the high demand for their services here due to the state’s widespread geographical landscape,” she said at the book launch of ‘Standard Operating Procedures for Assistant Medical Officers in Psychiatry’ here yesterday.

Her speech was delivered by Sabah Health Department (medical) senior chief assistant director Dr Abd Kahar Abd Asis.

According to Sabah psychiatry services statistics, 30,675 outpatient cases were recorded in 2016, alongside 1,373 inpatient cases.

This showed an increase from previous years, said Christina, in line with the progress of psychiatry services in Sabah.

Meanwhile, Health Ministry (medical) deputy director-general Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai said the publication of the book of standard operating procedures for assistant medical officers in psychiatry will provide a guideline to meet the standards of care and professionalism for patients.

Jeyaindran further said the book was a good tool to raise awareness on the importance of meeting set standards for all assistant medical officers who provide special care to psychiatry patients.

by Fiqah Roslan.

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Dishing up healthier options

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

It is vital for parents to understand lifestyle factors that determine the healthy growth of their children.

ARE parents aware of what their children are consuming, how they eat and in what environment they are eating in? In our cover story on “Ensuring children chomp on healthy treats” last month, we focused on the enforcement of the Healthy School Canteen Management Guide to limit the access and availability of unhealthy food and drinks to school children.

In this issue, we feature experts who give their take on the role parents play in ensuring their children’s diet contain a healthy amount of nutrients and the different benefits of consuming wholesome food.

We often hear from our neighbours or relatives how they get caught up with work commitments, subsequently handing down their parental duties to caretakers or the child’s grandparents

Many rely on food provided by the child’s school canteen, despite knowing the various unhealthy treats that are served on the premises.

The Education and Health Ministries have taken considerable measures to ensure healthier options are served in schools.

Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah told StarEducate recently that efforts to “healthify” school canteens began in 2016, in collaboration with the Education Ministry under the purview of the National Plan of Action for Nutrition of Malaysia 2016-2025.

The new guide, known as the revised “Healthy School Canteen Management Guide”, will be enforced this year to limit the accessibility and availability of unhealthy food and drinks to school children.

Meanwhile, school canteen operators are given a strict list of banned food that cannot be sold in government school canteens. While schools play a significant role in ensuring healthier options are dished out to students, parents play a role no less important.

It is vital for parents to understand other lifestyle factors that determine the healthy growth of their children, says Assoc Prof Dr Hazreen Abdul Majid. A child is too young to understand how to choose a healthy selection of food by themselves and parents always know best.

“It important to educate them at an early age on nutritious food. When they start young, it is easier for them to adapt to the environment and adopt a healthy lifestyle as they progress in life.

“The more you expose them to healthy options, the more it becomes a habit,” adds the Universiti Malaya Faculty of Medicine, Centre for Population Health and Department of Social and Preventive Medicine associate professor of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Echoing Dr Hazreen, Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Yazid Jalaludin says the responsibility to ensure a child’s diet contains good nutrition is not in the hands of healthcare professionals alone.

“I have come across parents who heavily involve their children in sports, training for five to six hours a day. Due to such hectic training schedules, many of them lack time to eat.

“Hence, their calorie intake is disproportionate to their loss of energy, causing them stunted growth and a lack of focus during their lessons,” adds the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre Department of Paediatrics head and Consultant Paediatrician, Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist.

Food that are high in glycemic index such as cereals and white bread digest faster, causing one to feel hungry more quickly. When this happens, Dr Hazreen says, a child will not have sustainable blood sugar in their system and thus, end up lacking attention during their lessons, disrupting their concentration and studies. “Therefore, the type of food and carbs they take play an important role,” he adds.

Dr Hazreen encourages the consumption of food high in fibre such as wholemeal and whole grain bread.

It delays gastric emptying, is wholesome, provides energy and is low in glycemic index. It also leads to a healthy bowel, a common problem among young children, he says.

“The vitamin and oil content in wholemeal and whole grain bread is higher compared to white bread. In addition to this, to add colour and creativity to their food, some parents even add fruits to make it interesting for their children. The role of food today has expanded more holistically,” he adds.

Dr Hazreen shares that eating meat on a daily basis is not advised. Instead, he encourages parents to alternate meat with fish sources such as tuna, sardines or deep-sea fish as it contains essential oil such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

“Don’t skip meals! Data gathered from various studies show that a number of children do not have their breakfast. When a child does not have fuel in their system, how will they be able to survive their day, especially when they have physical education in school? This will of course affect their studies. Parents play a crucial role here; they must be alert and monitor their children’s eating timings,” he adds.

Sharing similar sentiments as Dr Hazreen, Dr Muhammad Yazid says it is vital for children to never skip their meals, especially breakfast. It sends your body into a state of “yo-yo” as sugar levels fluctuate, he stresses. Having timely meals allow children to grow well, subsequently helping them to better understand and absorb lessons taught in school, he adds.

“When we eat, we provide energy to our brain in the form of glucose; the main fuel for our body. A child sleeps for some eight hours, on average. This means, they have been fasting and their stomach is empty for that duration of time.

“When they don’t have breakfast, they end up breaking their sugar resources from other parts of their body and this is not good, compared to simply having a meal. Therefore, a good amount of calorie intake is necessary as it provides energy; nutrition plays a significant role in the development of a child,” he says.

The Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) conducted a survey in 2014 on 8,705 school children across the country to study their breakfast habits. See Table 1 for key findings from the study.

In a World Health Organisation report published last year, it stated that 41 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2016.

For Dr Hazreen, this figure comes as no surprise as energy is not just derived from the food we devour, but from the type of beverages we consume. Instead of making fruit juices, for example, he suggests that parents feed the fruit to their children. One regular sized mug contains at least six teaspoon of sugar, he stresses.

“Unknowingly, parents feed their children excessive amounts of sugar, and this is just fruit juice. Can you imagine if their children consume carbonated beverages coupled with fast food?”

In our previous report, Dr Noor Hisham says food and beverages that are not allowed to be sold in school canteens are food and drinks that are high in sugar, fat and salt (sodium).

Carbonated drinks, sweets and chocolate, ice confections and ice cream and processed food such as burgers, nuggets, sausages, are examples of foods that are listed under this category, he explains.

In 2016, Dr Hazreen conducted a study on adolescent children and found that many teenagers consume too much sugar in their drinks and lack calcium and fibre in their diet.

“The reason behind this is multifactorial. There are cases where when a child is young and refuses to eat vegetables, parents give up reintroducing these foods to their children. Research suggests that when a type of food is reintroduced at least 15 times, the chances of the child consuming it is greater. Veggies are good not just to keep one’s cognitive functions sharp, but it is also beneficial for the bowel,” he adds.

Antioxidants in vegetables and fruits are also vital to ensure the smooth flow of blood to brain. Brighter fruits are better for one’s health as it contains more vitamins, he explains.

In an era where the fear of missing out on latest trends is astonishing and the inclination to believe messages forwarded over instant messaging apps are high, Dr Hazreen warns parents to do their research before succumbing to any sort of food craze.

“People enjoy following trends without understanding the rationale behind it. Be careful of what you are adopting, know if your child has any underlying diseases and always go back to basics such as looking into your child’s diet,” he adds.

Adequate sleep and meal prep

Dr Muhammad Yazid advocates the consumption of supper in small portions before a child goes to bed.

These include a glass of milk and one exchange of carbohydrate. It can be three pieces of biscuits or a slice of bread, provided they have a good dinner, he adds.

While a healthy diet for growing children is vital, he emphasises that sleep is of equal importance.

“Parents need to understand that a child requires a good amount of sleep per day, and they must sleep within a certain time to ensure their optimal growth. A child grows mainly during their sleep due to the hormones that are secreted during those hours.” He opposes the idea of children sleeping past midnight.

“Even if they get eight hours of sleep, it does not mean they will get the optimal hours as required, in comparison to a child who sleeps by 9pm.” Likewise, Dr Hazreen says inadequate rest coupled with unhealthy eating habits could cause a domino effect on a child and their academic performance.

He believes having a balanced meal is important, suggesting that parents follow the Health Ministry’s Nutrition Division Malaysian Healthy Plate recommendation of filling our plates in fractions or as they say, “Suku-Suku-Separuh”; a quarter is carbohydrates, another quarter protein (fish, poultry, meat and legumes) and the remaining half is vegetables and fruits.

Thanks to video-sharing websites such as YouTube and food networks such as Buzzfeed’s Tasty, busy parents are a click away from preparing simple meals for their children on days they find themselves racing against time.

“Parents can prepare something as simple as sandwiches, fruits and low-sugar cereals for breakfast.

Breakfast doesn’t necessarily need to be heavy, some parents even prepare oats with raisins for their children. For lunch, the children can have something light such as mee soup rather than nasi lemak as the latter has high contents of fat. Our stomach requires time to digest food with high fat content and when this happens, we often tend to feel sleepy,” Dr Hazreen says.
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One in four Malaysians develops cancer by 75

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

KENINGAU: A year-long cancer awareness community-based campaign has shown positive results, said Executive Director of KPJ for Sabah and Sarawak Hospitals, Mah Lai Heng.

She said the campaign had improved public awareness of cancer such as risk factors and symptoms, inspired a positive attitude towards both prevention as well as early diagnosis and encouraged healthy lifestyle behaviours.

“After successfully launching our ‘We Can, I Can,’ Cancer Awareness Campaign in Kota Kinabalu in March last year and 10 months of roadshows to major districts in Sabah, KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital brought their last and final roadshow to Keningau,” she said in her speech when launching KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital’s ‘We Can, I Can,’ Cancer Awareness Roadshow at a hotel here yesterday.

She said this marks a great start for the cancer awareness and education campaign in Keningau.

According to her, cancer is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide today, impacting more than 14 million people each year.

Mah said it is a destructive disease that often involved tough therapies and unpleasant side effects such as weight loss, fatigue and hair loss.

“Statistics from the Malaysia Health Ministry have shown that about 100,000 Malaysians suffer from cancer at any one time with breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer being the most common types.

“It is estimated that one in four Malaysians will develop cancer by the age of 75 years old.

“Fact is cancer is a public challenge, people may not realize or understand exactly how it affects the community, nation and world,” she said.

Mah said it may seem like one person can’t possibly make a difference, but the truth is their efforts can have a huge impact on individual lives and the community at large.

She said World Cancer Day takes place every year on 4 February. It is a global event that aims to unite all to take action and fight against cancer with the main focus on prevention, detection and treatment.

“As the leading Radiotheraphy and Oncology Centre in East Malaysia, we are taking the forefront to support World Cancer Day 2016-2018 with the theme: We Can, I Can, as our continuous quest to raise awareness on cancer at all levels,” Mah concluded.

Other activities held during the event were health talk, cancer suvivor story sharing, booth activities and health screening organized by KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital.

The forum in Keningau was jointly organized by Lions Clubs (zone 12), Keningau Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Keningau Chinese Women Association, Hakka Association, Senior Citizens Association, Sze Yi Association, Jiangmen Wuyi Association, Hainan Association, Teo Chew Association, Hokkien Association, National Unity and Integration Department and Bingkor Community Development Leader Unit.

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Depression not a sign of weakness

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

OF late, we have been observing high incidences of depression among the young. It is more common than many think.

Some people consider depression as trivial and not a genuine illness. It is a real illness with real symptoms and it will consume you slowly.

We always think that people have absolute control over how they feel.

Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It is also not a problem that will just go away.

Uncertainty, fear of growing up, stress of studies or college life, competitive environment and things such as these may trigger depression. Plus, abuse in cyberspace contributes a great deal to depression or depressive disorders.


We live in a world of big data, but little focus and clarity. Our relationship with society is weak. We focus more on goals such as wealth, reputation or impression, probably because we want to be viewed positively, but we fail to realise that we are pushing people towards depression.

Depression is predicted to be one of the major health burdens of the coming years. Research reports indicate that more than 34 million people suffer from depression. But this is not the number we should worry about; we should worry about the millions of people who are not seeking medical treatment.

Depression can affect anyone, even a person who appears to live a fairly idyllic life. It doesn’t matter whether you are a celebrity, a student, a teacher or a housewife, depression knows no boundary. Depression should be taken seriously. It should be addressed and discussed in schools, colleges, universities, workplaces or even at home.

Stigma is still a significant barrier. Thus, we have to come to see the error in our way of thinking. It’s time for our society to dispel the old notion that a person just needs to buck up.


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Medicine sold online may hurt

Sunday, January 28th, 2018
(File pix) Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang said the mushrooming of “online pharmacist stores” was alarming.

CLOTHING, accessories, home items, gadgets, cosmetics and skincare products are some of the things that you may find on online shopping platforms.

But, as you narrow down your search to health-related items, you will be surprised to see other medical products.

Surprisingly, the medicines available are not restricted to beauty pills. Other controlled medicines that need prescriptions are sold, raising questions about their authenticity and safety.

The prices are lower than market prices, which is one of the factors that has drawn consumers to spend money and compromise their health.

Under Section 13 of the Poisons Act 1952, it is against the law to sell or supply medicine without a licence. A seller can be fined up to RM3,000 or receive one-year imprisonment for the first offence.

The question is: how have online shopping platforms gotten the green light to sell the medicines, which is against the law?

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang said the mushrooming of “online pharmacist stores” was alarming.

“First and foremost, it is against the law to sell or supply medicine without a licence, and secondly, the authenticity of the drug is doubtful, which can lead to serious health effects if it is taken without the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist.

“Some medicines sold online could be fake and unregistered, which perhaps explains why their price is lower than that sold at pharmacies,” he said when contacted by the New Sunday Times.

“Medicines should be sold only by a pharmacist with a valid prescription or dispensed by a medical practitioner for their patients. The consequences will be dire if the people are allowed to buy medicines without consultations with medical practitioners and pharmacists.”

Checks at popular online shopping stores found that Amrahi’s claims are not baseless.

Besides slimming pills, medicines such as Tadalafil, a medication prescribed for erectile dysfunction, Isotretinoin which is used for severe acne and sleeping pills are some of the controlled medicines found on these platforms.

Medicine sold online could very be fake drugs.

“Controlled medicines means that you can’t buy them over the counter, what more through online stores.

“These medicines need to be prescribed by doctors or medical experts after evaluating one’s health.

“Medicines sold online compromise patient safety as the public have no way to gauge whether the products that they have bought are genuine.

“Chances are these medicines have been tampered or tainted with impurities and microorganisms, which pose a serious threat to consumers’ health.

“Among the effects can be dizziness, headache, nausea, stuffy nose, muscle pain and back pain.

“It can also lead to the more dangerous effects, such as heart problems, if it is taken without the doctor or pharmacist’s supervision. In certain cases, it can lead to death.”

He said supervision from the authorities was crucial to curb the sales of these medicines.

“We need to check how these online stores got approval to sell these medicines.

“We need help from the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism as well as Health ministries to look into this.”

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry enforcement director Datuk Mohd Roslan Mahayudin said the ministry had yet to receive any reports on the matter.

“We can take action and investigate only if it is related to the performance of the medicine. For example, if the medicine claims to cure diabetes, but fails to do so, consumers can lodge a report. The issue can also be referred to the Consumer Claims Tribunal.”

He said issues on the authenticity of medicines were under the Health Ministry.

“The Health Ministry disallows people from making claims about medicines unless they can be proven. The registration status and authenticity of medicines only be determined only by the ministry.”

By Nur Aqidah Azizi

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Vaping, E-cigarettes can be addictive

Friday, January 26th, 2018
The new study also says that there is conclusive proof that in addition to nicotine, most e-cigarettes also contain and emit numerous potentially toxic substances. FILE PIC

A NATIONAL panel of public health experts concluded in a report released Tuesday that vaping with e-cigarettes that contain nicotine can be addictive and that teenagers who use the devices may be at higher risk of smoking.

Whether teenage use of e-cigarettes leads to conventional smoking has been intensely debated in the United States and elsewhere. While the industry argues that vaping is not a stepping stone to conventional cigarettes or addiction, some anti-smoking advocates contend that young people become hooked on nicotine, and are enticed to cancer-causing tobacco-based cigarettes over time.

The new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is the most comprehensive analysis of existing research on e-cigarettes. The report also cited conclusive proof that the devices are safer than traditional smoking products and may help smokers quit, citing conclusive proof that switching can reduce smokers’ exposure to deadly tar, dangerous chemicals and other carcinogens.

But, it stopped short of declaring that e-cigarettes are safe, noting that there are no long-term scientific studies of the devices’ addictive potential or their effects on the heart, lungs or on reproduction.

The panel found evidence among studies it reviewed that vaping may prompt teenagers or young adults to try regular cigarettes, putting them at higher risk for addiction, but that any significant linkage between e-cigarettes and long-term smoking has not been established. It said it was unable to determine whether young people were just trying cigarettes or becoming habitual smokers.

“When it got down to answering the questions about what the impacts on health are, there is still a lot to be learned,” said David Eaton, of the University of Washington, who led the committee that reviewed existing research and issued the report.
“E-cigarettes cannot be simply categorised as either beneficial or harmful.”

The report was commissioned in 2016, after the Food and Drug Administration gained the authority to regulate tobacco products that had previously been outside its jurisdiction, such as e-cigarettes and cigars.

Mitch Zeller, head of the agency’s tobacco division, said the committee was assigned to assess the existing science, and to point out gaps in research. The report will aid the agency in its review of applications for lower-risk tobacco products and the potential harm or benefits those pose to individuals and the public.

Cessation was one area where the report did give the booming e-cigarette industry some good news. It pointed out the benefits for smokers trying to quit. But people who continue to smoke cigarettes, alternating with e-cigarettes, do not gain the same health benefits, the committee said. That is especially important given that most adults who vape also still smoke or use other tobacco products. The report also said the evidence was limited on whether e-cigarettes were effective for quitting smoking.

While there is no evidence at this time that e-cigarettes or their components cause cancer, the committee recommended more long-term research. Some e-cigarettes do contain chemicals and metals whose long-term effects — including on pregnancy — also need further study, the committee said.

The authors of the new report cite conclusive evidence that vaping can be addictive, and that exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes is highly variable, depending on the characteristics of the device, as well as how it is used. They also cited conclusive proof that in addition to nicotine, most e-cigarettes also contain and emit numerous potentially toxic substances. In terms of secondhand vapour, the committee said there was conclusive evidence that e-cigarette use increases airborne concentrations of particulate matter and nicotine indoors.

It concluded that much of the current research on e-cigarettes is flawed, either in methodology or because of industry-financed bias. In addition, the levels of nicotine and other chemicals, including metals, vary in e-cigarettes from brand to brand, which has complicated some research findings.

In July, the FDA delayed the deadline at least four years for e-cigarette companies to apply for approval to keep their products on the market, largely by showing some public health benefit. The agency did not postpone other aspects of its tobacco control programme, including requirements for mandatory age and photo-ID checks to prevent illegal sales to minors and the banning of free samples.



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Mental health issues high in Sabah

Friday, January 26th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has one of the highest rates of mental health problems in Malaysia, according to the latest Health and Morbidity survey.

State Health Director, Datuk Dr. Christina Rundi said that over 40 per cent of the nation’s population is affected by mental health problems and the number has doubled over the last decade.

“This needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, since it indicates that many people do not have a good quality of life,” she said without giving details on the number of Sabah mental health sufferers.

Her text speech was delivered by her Deputy Director (oral health), Dr Lawrance Mah Hon Kheong at the 1st Borneo Quality of Life Conference at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), yesterday.

She added that the high rate of mental health problems would lead to a serious effect on our economy, families and the communities as well as threatening the quality of life.

She also stated that most people who are affected by these problems are not treated well, even when they are severely disabled by it.

“Many of the sufferers will either stop to work or find it difficult to cope with work. This is also a problem for parents who are also affected by it, where they have to struggle to provide adequate care for their children and put the next generation at risk with similar problems.

“The sad thing is that most of these sufferers can be treated, but our current mental health services are inadequate to cope with this level of need,” said Christina while urging the whole society to tackle these problems together.

Christina disclosed that huge collaboration is needed to tackle this kind of problems with the help of various government agencies, the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Earlier she said the health department was excited to co-host the conference because health and quality of life are well connected to each other.

“Without good quality of life we are not truly healthy, and I hope that this conference will start to make a difference in improving quality of life for all of us.”

She said that among the toxic ingredients which affect both health and quality of life are poverty, lack of opportunities, poor education, domestic violence, loss of social networks and poor physical environment.

She explained that low quality of life actually has a physical effect on the body and will have a direct effect on many body systems which makes a person to choose an unhealthy lifestyle.

“Over the last 20 years, we have been working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and I am proud to say that Sabah has done well in meeting them.

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Ensuring children chomp on healthy treats

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
It is important that schoolchildren are well-nourished so that they can study well in class. — Filepic

It is important that schoolchildren are well-nourished so that they can study well in class. — Filepic

The Healthy School Canteen Management Guide is enforced this year to limit the access and availability of unhealthy food and drinks to school children.

THE new school year has started and a quick scan of parental Facebook groups show many happy mummies cooking and packing some pretty delicious and nutritious food for their children to eat during recess.

But what about those children who do not bring packed lunch boxes to school every day? They also deserve to eat something well-balanced nutritionally.

Gone are the days when one could find chocolates and potato chips in school canteens.

Schoolchildren are encouraged to drink water and milk in school, and to avoid sweetened drinks. — Filepic

Schoolchildren are encouraged to drink water and milk in school, and to avoid sweetened drinks. — Filepic

Today’s school canteen operators are given a strict list of banned food that cannot be sold in government school canteens. (see table)

Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says the prevalence of overweight and obesity has been rising among adults and children in Malaysia for the past decades.

“What is more alarming, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among school-aged children are also on the rise which may affect their health status later in life,” he tells The Star.

So it is important that efforts are immediately taken to create a cost-effective nutrition programme to prevent and combat nutrition-related diseases, he adds.

Dr Noor Hisham: One of the measures in regards with policy is to ban foods and beverages that are not encouraged to be sold in school canteens.

Dr Noor Hisham: One of the measures in regards with policy is to ban foods and beverages that are not encouraged to be sold in school canteens.

“One of the measures in regards with policy is to ban foods and beverages that are not encouraged to be sold in school canteens.

He adds that efforts to “healthify” school canteens began in 2016, in collaboration with the Education Ministry under the purview of the National Plan of Action for Nutrition of Malaysia 2016-2025.

The new guide, known as the revised Healthy School Canteen Management Guide, will be enforced this year to limit the accessibility and availability of unhealthy food and drinks to school children.

Dr Noor Hisham adds that school canteen operators are given guidance to implement this new guide.

“In general, the food and beverages that are not allowed to be sold are food and drinks that are high in sugar, fat and salt (sodium),” he says.

The Education Ministry stressed that this list must be adhered to by all schools.

School canteen operators have made it a point to adhere to the guidelines.

However, Association of School Canteen Operators president William Huee says that does not mean that there is no more junk food being sold in schools.

“I have visited many schools in Kuala Lumpur and saw the school koperasi (cooperative) and book shops still selling junk food,” he says, adding that there are also vending machines dispensing soft drinks for school children.

He adds that despite the promises of better enforcement, not much has been done by the Education Ministry to curb the sales of unhealthy food within the school compound.

“I feel very uneasy for the children who are drinking gassy drinks and eating junk food in school,” he explains.

“Food and beverages that may contribute to health implications in schoolchildren such as carbonated drinks, sweets and chocolate, ice confections and ice cream as well as processed food such as burgers, nuggets, sausages, are examples of foods that are listed under this category,” Dr Noor Hisham explains.

He says the rationale behind removing certain foods from school canteens is to prevent diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCD) that have been increasing at a tremendous rate over the last few years.

Sugar-laden food, a known cause of obesity based on current scientific studies, is something one will find missing in school canteens.

Dr Noor Hisham says that there are four main issues that encouraged the ministry to remove these foods from canteens.

“Sugar is the main cause of dental caries and a low sugar intake could prevent tooth decay.

“Sugar could also promote the development of overweight and obese children and adolescents, either by contributing to excess energy intake specifically after consuming high-sugar food and beverages, or by triggering the appetite leading to overconsumption.”

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