Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Have mobile clinics for diabetes education

Monday, January 14th, 2019
(Stock image for illustration purposes) Only a blood test will establish whether people are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

A RECENT study indicates that there are three million diabetics in Malaysia and 16 per cent of the national budget for healthcare goes to treat diabetes and related complications, like kidney failures, limb amputations and blindness due to nerve damage.

Diabetes has no outward symptoms and will silently damage the nerves, which leads to organ failure.

Only a blood test will establish whether people are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

When people are found to be diabetic, medication and counselling on diet and a healthy lifestyle prevent serious complications.

When people are found to be pre-diabetic, counselling on diet and a healthy lifestyle can prevent the onset of the disease.

Singapore has taken measures like having mobile clinics to screen people for diabetes and lessons on diabetes prevention for schoolchildren.

Similarly, we hope that the Health Ministry will have mobile clinics to screen and educate people on diabetes.

Those in rural areas and the poor have poor knowledge of diabetes and its complications.


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Minister urges for public practice of good hygiene habits

Friday, January 11th, 2019

The letter that has been made viral.

KOTA KINABALU: Health and People’s wellbeing minister, Datuk Stephen Wong has urged the public not to consume outside food that is unhygenic.

He also urges them to drink water that has been boiled and use clean water for their food preparations.

Additionally, people should also wash their hands before eating and practice good hygeine habits, he said.

His advice came in the wake of a cholera information letter issued by the Health office here that has been made viral over the social media.

Stephen said there was only one isolated case detected and urged the public not to make a huge issue out of it.

“The alert circular is only for our internal circulation to all members of the Health department in preparation for any eventualities,” he explained to the Borneo Post.

Nevertheless, he urged the public to not be lackadaisical in matters related to hygeine and their health.

by Jenne Lajiun.

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Smoking ban can develop a mindful culture

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
A smoking ban has been imposed on eateries and public places. FILE PIC

SMOKING on board a plane used to be normal decades ago. When people became more aware of health risks, airlines began to enforce a smoking ban.

In the United States, smoking was banned on domestic flights with a duration of two hours or fewer in 1988, with all domestic and international flights being smoke-free by 2000.

Malaysia, as of Jan 1, imposed a nationwide ban on smoking in eateries. Sabah and Sarawak have yet to impose the smoking ban, pending a decision by the state cabinet.

Sabah ministers are worried about the effects the ban would have on the tourism industry. Some are against the blanket ban, suggesting a place be designated for smokers.

Some quarters have said we should not become a “nanny state”, a conservative British term, which implies the government is trying to give too much advice or make too many laws about how people should live their lives, especially about smoking or drinking alcohol.

It means removing the personal responsibility of individuals for “the greater good”.

In fact, it is good because it develops a culture that is mindful of others.

Of course, it will take time to assess the impact of change. Even in countries that have implemented a similar move, it did not take long for all to fall in line. Few people broke the rules.


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Sabah smoking ban starts on Feb 1

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
Datuk Stephen Wong said “The decision shows that the state government is committed to ensure a smoke-free environment for the people of Sabah and visitors from outside. (NSTP/KHAIRULL AZRY BIDIN)

KOTA KINABALU: A smoking ban at all eateries in Sabah will take effect on Feb 1.

State Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Datuk Stephen Wong said: “The decision shows that the state government is committed to ensure a smoke-free environment for the people of Sabah and visitors from outside.

“The state cabinet meeting today agreed to implement the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2018 which involves all eateries starting from Feb 1 to give ample time for agencies and premise owners to prepare for it,” he told a press conference, here.

Wong said there would be a six-month grace period to educate the public on the smoking ban.

From July 1, a fine of up to RM10,000 or maximum imprisonment of two years will be imposed.

On the delay in discussing the issue, Wong said although the Health Ministry had announced the ban in October last year, the state government did not receive any notification on the policy prior to its implementation in the peninsula on Jan 1.

Sabah Health Department director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi said 747 officers from the department would look into the implementation of the ban, including in rural areas.

“We hope during the six-month educational period, people will be aware that it is compoundable if they smoke.

By Olivia Miwi.

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Diabetes, hypertension, stones among main causes of kidney failure – doctor

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Dr Kenneth giving his health talk on ‘A Powerful Treatment For Kidney Failure’.

KOTA KINABALU: There are about 7,000 to 8,000 recorded cases of kidney failure each year in Malaysia.

Dr Kenneth Wu, a Sabah-based nephrologist, said diabetes, hypertension, stones and wrong medication were among the main causes of kidney failure.

“Patients with kidney failure are left with two options – either to opt for dialysis or a transplant,” said Kenneth in his health talk entitled ‘A Powerful Treatment For Kidney Failure’ at the E-West Banquet Hall yesterday.

He revealed that the total number of dialysis patients had also been increasing rapidly.

“There were 7,800 dialysis patients back in 2000. Then in 2010, the figure increased to 23,000. Now, there are more than 40,000 dialysis patients,” he explained.

Kidney failure is a growing concern among Malaysians due to their sedentary lifestyle.

It is understood that patients suffering from kidney failure require treatment up to three times per week.

Furthermore, private centres usually charge between RM200 to RM300 per session for dialysis treatment alone and these charges vary, depending on extra services such as blood taking, doctor’s consultation and Epogen.

Based on this calculation, such treatment could reach up to between RM3,000 and RM4, 000 per month.

The health talk was a part of the Hemodialysis Kinabalu Sabah Association’s (PHKS) awareness programmes for the public on the kidney disease and dialysis treatment.

Since October 18, 2005 until December 2018, the association had provided dialysis services to a total of 61 patients.

PHKS is currently treating 32 patients who were referred from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Perkeso and as well as walk-in applications.

by Neil Brian Joseph.

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Smoking ban in food premises to take effect tomorrow (Jan 1).

Monday, December 31st, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): All food premises have been gazetted as no-smoking zones, effective from midnight Monday (Dec 31), says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said the ban was in line with the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations (Amendments) 2018 to protect the public from exposure to cigarette smoke.

He said the Health Ministry was committed to ensuring that the public, especially children, pregnant women and the elderly, were always protected from the dangers of smoke from cigarettes and other tobacco products.

“The public are urged not to smoke in all eateries, whether air-conditioned or not. This includes inside and outside the buildings where the eateries, restaurants and food courts are.

“The ban also covers food stalls and vehicles which provide tables and chairs for people to eat, as well as restaurants on ships and trains,” he said in a statement here on Monday (Dec 31).

Dr Noor Hisham also advised owners and operators of food premises to display smoking ban signage clearly and to take steps to make sure that nobody smokes by not providing facilities like ashtrays.

Anyone found guilty of the offence of smoking in banned areas can be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to two years under Regulation 11 of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.

Premise or vehicle owners and operators who fail to display the smoking ban signage can be fined up to RM3,000 or jailed up to six months under Regulation 12 of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.


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Impact of mental illness stigma

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018
(Stock image for illustration purposes) Stigma devalues a person and affects his self-image.

GOOD mental health is something we all need. It is a feeling of wellbeing, happiness, the ability to cope with life’s many challenges, to accept others and, most of all, to have a positive attitude towards oneself.

Scientific and medical research demonstrates that mental health is a foundation for good health as physical and mental health are inseparable. Despite its increasing significance, the reality is that governments, public health practitioners and citizens alike devote little attention and consequently fewer resources to mental health.

Meanwhile, the suffering caused by mental illness and mental disorders is quite staggering. Patients with mental illness suffer a great deal and are unable to function normally. On top of that, they face discrimination and rejection from the community, and this has a detrimental effect on their recovery.

According to the World Health Organisation, one in four individuals develops a common mental disorder, such as depression or anxiety, every year. Two in every 100 people in our community develop schizophrenia or manic depression (bipolar disorder) in their lifetime. Two to three per cent of all families have a family member who is affected by intellectual disability. Five of the 10 leading causes of disability are mental disorders — depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

The symptoms of a mental disorder may greatly reduce one’s ability to work, study or participate in community life. The disorder could also lead to other health problems, and in some cases, even suicide. To make matters worse, if one suffers from a mental disorder, he may be shunned by the community.

Why do we do so little? According to WHO, on average, the 37 countries and areas in the Western Pacific region devote less than one per cent of their health budgets to the treatment and prevention of mental disorders. Region-wide, one in five individuals who seeks the help of a healthcare professional suffers from a mental disorder. Of this number, only a fraction are properly diagnosed, and of those who are, few ever get treatment or receive appropriate care.

The number of people at risk of developing mental health problems is increasing daily. People in developing and developed countries of the Western Pacific region are becoming increasingly vulnerable to mental illness.

It is believed that depression will be one of the largest health problems worldwide by 2020. Surveys show that mental disorders occur in one in five individuals, or 20 per cent of the world population, each year.

There is growing evidence to show that the burden of disease in societies is gradually but surely moving towards mental diseases. While heart disease, cancer and HIV-AIDS take their toll yearly in the form of death, mental disorders, such as depression, are rapidly becoming a major source of stress not only to the individual and his family, but also to his community.

In Malaysia, most mental health promotions are focused on the individual. We have overlooked other essential factors, such as the environment in which we live in. Is our environment conducive to the development of healthy bodies and minds?

Poorly planned urbanisation and uncontrolled deforestation could contribute to poor mental health of the people. Unstable economic status, increased unemployment, poverty and severe stress have proven disruptive to mental health as well.

When dealing with mental disorders, it is essential to address the stigma attached to it. Stigma devalues a person and affects his self-image. Some of the harmful effects of stigma include refusal to accept illness, delaying or refusing treatment, isolation, fear and shame.

Creating greater awareness of mental health, empowering the mentally sick and their family members to stand up against the stigma and discrimination through education and engaging the public to understand the issues related to mental disorders are some strategies that can be undertaken to de-stigmatise mental illness.


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The woes of vape

Sunday, December 9th, 2018
A posed picture of youths vaping. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star.

A posed picture of youths vaping. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star.

While adults claim that e-cigs are helping them quit smoking, researchers worry that it could draw children to the habit

THE good news is that smoking among children is dropping.

The bad news is that e-cigs and vape could disrupt the positive pattern.

Cambridge Behaviour and Health Research Unit senior research associate Dr Milica Vasiljevic says children are picking up e-cigs more than cigarettes.

While they may not be regular users, the mere fact that they are experimenting with e-cigs, is worrying.

Dr Vasiljevic is the principal investigator of a study on e-cig ads and children’s perceptions of tobacco smoking harms. Published in July, the paper warns that e-cigs could disrupt the trend of smoking decline among children as kids exposed to glamorous e-cig ads, perceive occasional smoking as less harmful. This may lead to more positive attitudes towards smoking and the tobacco industry.

Prof Dame Theresa Marteau, Cambridge Behaviour and Health Research Unit director and the paper’s co-author, believes their experiment is the only one showing how the appeal of tobacco smoking is increased among kids exposed to e-cig ads.

“We see a softening of attitudes towards tobacco smoking harms, and risks. That’s a concern. So if that’s your definition of ‘renormalising smoking’, than yes, that’s happening.”

While e-cigs are less harmful and hold great potential as a cessation tool, the gateway risk is under studied, and warrants further investigation, she feels. She says e-cig companies are consciously targeting children with the flavours they’re putting out.

“E-cig companies are taking their cue from the tobacco, alcohol, and sugary drinks industries. That’s how you sell products. Flavours like bubblegum, chocolate milk, and vanilla ice cream, explicitly target children. If you’re talking about cessation, you shouldn’t have flavours that children would like – what’s the point? Such flavours should be banned to protect children.”

In the old tobacco marketing campaigns, all the cool kids smoke, says Dr Vasiljevic. Now it’s vape. Many researchers and public health practitioners are concerned about the gateway hypothesis where addiction to the nicotine in e-cigs might lead people to tobacco cigarettes.

Dr Vasiljevic, who was involved in other experimental studies looking at the impact of e-cig advertising amongst children, found that e-cigs were being advertised similarly to how cigarettes were advertised in the 1950s and 1960s.

“You can’t do that with tobacco cigarette advertising anymore due to legislative restrictions but children were clearly the main entry points into the consumer market for conventional tobacco cigarettes.

“Our concern is that ads portraying e-cigs as glamorous, and healthier than tobacco, may be a contributing factor for children to start using tobacco.

“Kids may think vaping is good, it’s a gadget for the future, and it’s safe even though there’s nicotine. So these cool and glamorous ads may be resurrecting old smoking norms.

“If e-cigs are intended only for smoking cessation, then it would make sense to advertise them as a medicinal product. Tighter controls on marketing materials may be needed,” says Dr Vasiljevic.

On the reason for her focus on e-cigs and children, Prof Marteau says it’s because smoking rates – particularly in high income countries – are going down. This means that adults are stopping smoking. So, from a public health perspective, there’s a need to prevent children from starting. Fewer children are using tobacco in the UK and elsewhere, and e-cigs are threatening the progress in tobacco control policies, she says.

But the fact that tobacco prevalence among children has gone down dramatically at a time where e-cig experimentation has risen, says Paul Aveyard, Professor of Behavioural Medicine at the University of Oxford, implies that whatever gateway there is, is very small.

You can’t have both trains going in opposite directions and saying: ‘Oh it’s luring lots of people into smoking’, Prof Aveyard who is also the senior editor of the journal Addiction, and coordinating editor of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, argues.

An alternative way of looking at it, he says, is to ask why young people smoke.

“It’s the rebels – the kids who are unengaged with school, and those whose social identities are other than hardworking. Maybe e-cigs are just taking the place of cigarettes. We don’t know that anymore than we know whether e-cigs are a gateway to smoking or whether e-cigs have driven down the prevalence of smoking in young people. It’s all speculative at this point.

“I don’t want kids exposed to e-cig ads to perceive smoking as less harmful than it is, but this has to do with better ad regulations.”

In Malaysia, the Health Ministry defines devices that contain nicotine as e-cig, and those without as vape, or vaping.

The ministry’s deputy director-general (public health) Datuk Dr Chong Chee Kheong says e-cigs with nicotine are regulated under the Poison Act 1952. Nicotine is grouped under Group C Poisons and cannot be sold or supplied by retailer to any person except as dispensed medicine or an ingredient of a dispensed medicine.

“E-cigs without nicotine is not controlled under any law – for now.”

It’s worrying, he says, that ads for non-nicotine liquids or vape, are not banned on social media and the Internet.

“While e-cigs containing nicotine are banned, when it’s advertised online, we don’t know whether it’s really nicotine-free because you cannot tell from the physical look of the liquids.”

Consumers Association of Penang’s (CAP) education officer N.V. Subbarow shares the concern – especially with newer, sleeker devices, like Juul, hitting the market.

Juul which mimics the nicotine hit of a real cigarette, has popped up in schools across the US, sparking concern among parents, educators and regulators.

‘Juuling’ refers to the recreational use of the device which resembles USB drives.

The sale of fruit and candy flavours in convenience stores and gas stations, has been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to counter a surge in teenage use of e-cigs by more than 75% since last year. The FDA will also introduce stricter age-verification requirements for online sales of e-cigs, Reuters recently reported.

Subbarow fears that children and adolescents who see ‘Juuling’ clips on YouTube, will be tempted to try the fad.

“Curiosity gets the better of them and they pick up an e-cig even though they have never smoked before. That’s dangerous.”

International Islamic University Malaysia Assoc Prof Dr Mohamad Haniki Nik Mohamed calls on parents and teachers to be alert.

E-cigs used to be huge but now the latest in the market is a flat, and sleek version that fits into the pocket, Dr Mohamad Haniki, who is the National E-cigarette Survey (NECS) 2016 principal investigator, says.

By Christina Chin
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Health Ministry: 80 percent of eye diseases are preventable, treatable.

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

JOHOR BARU: At least 80 percent of all blindness or limited vision cases can be prevented or treated.

Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said that based on a National Eye Survey in 2014, there are at least 1.2 percent or 63,000 Malaysians who had been diagnosed as blind in the country.

“There are also some 350,000 people or 5.4 percent with limited vision,” he said.

According to Dr Dzulkefly, 58 percent of those going blind was due to cataract while 10 percent due to diabetes and 7 percent because of glaucoma.

Dr Dzulkefly said that with an ageing population and increase in diabetic cases, the ministry expects increase in eye diseases such as cataract and glaucoma.

He said this at the launch of the national level World Sight Day here on Thursday (Oct 11).

By Nelson Benjamin
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I am 33 – and I just had a stroke.

Monday, October 8th, 2018

I’m going to begin the fourth anniversary article of In Your Face with a cliche – that speed kills. In most cases, that is true. However, the opposite is true in the case of a stroke – a lesson driven home when I overcame a stroke at the end of August.

And how did I learn this lesson that got me the swift medical care that saved my life? This was a lesson I learned when I interviewed National Stroke Association of Malaysia (Nasam) founder Janet Yeo for an article I wrote to help Nasam raise awareness for Stroke Awareness Day, which falls on Oct 29.

“First look at the face, the face will be a little distorted. Then ask the person to raise their arms. Strokes always affect one side, so an arm will keep falling down. Then listen to their speech and ask them to smile, if the speech is slurred and they have difficulty smiling it is time to call the hospital. And this is what I always urge people – go straight to the hospital, don’t go to a clinic. Go to the emergency ward,” said Yeo.

In this instance, a pearl of wisdom from an interview for a previous In Your Face preserved my quality of life and prevented me from serious brain damage as my quick action led to me receiving expert medical attention within half an hour of symptoms – before any lasting damage could occur

On this, Yeo said that strokes are not something that adults – especially senior citizens – have to worry about as even children can also get strokes.

“Our youngest stroke survivor had a stroke in her mother’s womb, but it was only found out when she was unable to turn as a baby. By the time they diagnosed her, she was nearly a year old. Today, she’s going to school and learning ballet. We have a lot of survivors at our centres in their 20s and 30s,” she said

Yeo added that 52,000 people in Malaysia will get a stroke every year, and according to global statistics one in every six people gets a stroke daily.

“If you look at the statistics, one in six people will get a stroke. These statistics are accurate, and this means that someone you know could very well have a stroke. It could be someone in your family or a friend. It could be you. We have to think carefully before saying that a stroke will never happen to us,” said Yeo.

It would be fair to say that if I hadn’t learned this from her – I might have dismissed the possibility that I was having a stroke offhand – and not sought the right treatment rapidly enough, and on that note I am also sharing links to four life lessons I’ve learned over the years writing In Your Face after the end of this article.

She added that strokes – which are caused when brain cells die due to an interruption in the blood nourishing our body’s nerve centre – are the third largest cause of deaths in Malaysia after heart diseases and cancer and that strokes are the single most common cause of severe disabilities in Malaysia.

It was at this point that Yeo shared with me the importance of the post-stroke rehabilitation provided by Nasam through its physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and counselors. at its nine centres nationwide

“There is life after a stroke despite the damage, because you can still live your life and enjoy your life even though you are a wheelchair user. We have a philosophy that there is a life after a stroke,” said Yeo.

In fact, she encourages stroke survivors to live their lives fully instead of giving up because they face challenges after having a stroke.

“I want to discourage stroke survivors from thinking that they have to wait until they get better before they go out and live their lives. I tell them that it takes a long time to recover from a stroke, I had a stroke 28 years ago and I am still recovering. The moment I came home from the hospital, my husband said that I’m going out for dinner, to the market and I am going back to the office. I lived my life. I went through it and now I am preaching what I practiced,” said Yeo.

“I could have been bedridden or a wheelchair user as my stroke was that severe, but my husband believed that I would rise to the challenge if he challenged me. I want stroke survivors to challenge themselves and believe in themselves,” added Yeo.

Yeo added that a stroke can be seen as a challenge for a person to overcome by reinventing themselves.

“I tell stroke survivors to approach every day with a new outlook, that they’re going to work and not laze around in bed. Get ready, shower, dress well and treat coming to Nasam as if they’re coming to work for two hours. And what is the purpose of the work? To rebuild yourself. It is a yes I can mindset that is aimed at lifting the spirit,” said Yeo.

She added that Nasam helps people develop new talents they never knew they had and believe that there’s a life after a stroke.

“We have been blessed with a lot of talents, so let’s move on to the next talent. We get people to see that a stroke is a turning point and to see the positive points about it – that they’re making new friends and discovering talents they never knew they had,” said Yeo, who added that Nasam helps about 500 people every day.

At this point I asked her how people can seek Nasam’s help if they or someone they know has been affected by a stroke.

“They just call up for an appointment at any one of the centres. An appointment has to be made because we need to arrange for our chief physiotherapist to do an assessment. What will happen when they come in is that the stroke survivor will be given an introduction to Nasam and what we do, and the centre’s chief physiotherapist will assess them and prescribe the program best suited to them depending on their age and the severity of the stroke so that we are more effective,” said Yeo.

She also said that Nasam – contactable via email at – welcomes the support of the public.

“Participate in our activities. If we’re having a Stroke Games, come and cheer us on. Come and volunteer your time. When we have a public forum, come and listen. Additionally, we are starting to recruit new volunteers as we have arts, craft and music in our holistic programme. These are all the programmes we have. So be a volunteer. Teach them how to do handcraft, teach them how to do gardening. Be a volunteer,” she said.

Yeo added that more therapists were also needed.

“Just a few years ago I had to employ therapists from Mumbai. We were using locums for quite some time, and quite a few therapists in Malaysia at the time were being hired by the hospitals. When I say therapists I mean physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. Speech therapists and occupational therapists are very hard to come by,” she added

By Tan Yi Liang
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