Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Outcry over unnecessary medical tests and diagnosis

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Medicine galore: Pills and capsules of all shapes, colours and sizes are now available worldwide. — AFP

Medicine galore: Pills and capsules of all shapes, colours and sizes are now available worldwide. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Already struggling to cope with high medical costs, Malaysians are now worried about over-diagnosis and over-treatment – a growing global trend.

Shirley Yeh, 56, complained that she was charged over RM50,000 when her mother was recently admitted to a private hospital in the Klang Valley for a month. She underwent a battery of tests and was prescribed a long list of medication by five different specialists who treated her.

“After my mum was discharged, she suffered a seizure and I took her to another hospital. The doctor said the drug dosage she was prescribed was too high. From paying RM500 for her monthly medication, we are now paying less than RM30,” she said.

Yeh herself was nearly subjected to over-treatment when a doctor recommended a hysterectomy to remove her cyst.

“I got a second opinion where the doctor explained that a cure should not be more severe than the ailment. He removed the cyst and the treatment was much cheaper and less painful than if I had done a hyste­rectomy,” she said.

Housewife S. Shalini, 30, said she spent close to RM30,000 on a surgery to remove a cyst and fibroid followed by two MRI scans and countless other tests but was still bleeding and in pain.

“I’ve seen three doctors already and undergone all sorts of tests but my condition has not improved,” she complained.

Mother-of-two Alice Cheah, 36, said the paediatrician who treated her son recommended a slew of tests, claiming that his bones were under-developed.

“After spending thousands of ringgit on tests, I got a second opinion and was told that they were all unnecessary. My son is now doing fine,” she said.


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‘Budget should address healthcare issues’

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: THE medical fraternity and the public are hoping that Budget 2015 will address a number of shortcomings in the provision of healthcare services.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr H. Krishna Kumar said despite being ranked as third best in the world in providing healthcare services, the amount of money allocated by the government was still minimal.

“The government should look into improving medical staff remunerations to avoid losing them to the private sector.

“Many doctors do not stay in the public service after serving the required years,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Dr Krishna said although Malaysia produced a large number of doctors, it did not have enough specialists.

“With a shortage of specialists, longer working hours are required from doctors,” he said, adding that there should also be adequate trainers to train specialists.

He said there was no point in building more hospitals if there was an insufficient number of specialists.

“The government must also make it compulsory for every university offering medical programmes to have their own hospitals.”

Dr Krishna said the government should raise certain taxes and lift sugar subsidies to check on the rising number of non-communicable diseases.

He said tax exemption be given for gym memberships to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Suthakar Govindan, 51, who frequently visits government hospitals, said they should reduce the waiting hours, especially for senior citizens. He suggested that hospitals come up with express lanes dedicated to senior citizens to collect their medications.

Suthakar said the government should increase the number of beds at public hospitals.

Pharmacist Nanthini Suriayanarayan, 24, said the Health Ministry should consider opening drive-through medication dispensing facilities for patients to collect their monthly medical supplies.


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Handshake, peck will not spread HIV – doctor.

Friday, September 26th, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: HIV and AIDS patients will not infect the people through handshakes or kisses on the cheek, said a medical doctor.

“These hands have shaken hands with thousands of HIV patients. There is no problem,” said Menggatal Health Clinic’s family medicine specialist Dr Mohd Nazri Mohd Daud yesterday.

Speaking at the Seminar on HIV/AIDS and Women 2014 at a resort near here, Dr Mohd Nazri said he also would not mind receiving a smooch on his cheek by people suffering from HIV.

“The HIV virus also cannot be spread on a fruit that has been tainted with a small drop of blood from an HIV positive person who accidentally cut himself while cutting the fruit,” he said.

He emphasized that while the HIV virus was exceptionally strong and difficult to destroy inside a human host, it was an extremely weak virus outside of one.

“It can die within minutes outside a human host,” he said.

On claims that eating certain herbs and consuming the organs of certain reptiles can cure HIV patients, Dr Mohd Nazri said that he could only vouch for claims that had received confirmation from scientific organisations.

Wash hands to keep Ebola away

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: Washing hands with water and soap and sanitising regularly are among the simplest ways to prevent the transmission of the Ebola virus.

Sean G. Kaufman, a biosafety expert, advised Malaysians not to be overly worried or afraid of Ebola, as the virus was very fragile and could be “inactivated” through such precautionary measures.

He said although Ebola was considered a deadly virus, preventive methods had proven to work.

“Out of all the deadly viruses that exist, Ebola is one of the easiest to be deactivated. Ebola is a lipid-enveloped virus which means the virus is coated with a protective layer that protects the virus and the layer can be weakened.

“Any common household detergent can easily weaken that envelope and kill the virus,” he said after attending a workshop on biorisk awareness “Infection Prevention and Control for Ebola Viral Disease Management” here yesterday.

The workshop was organised by the Malaysian Biosafety and Biosecurity Association (MBBA) to educate the clinical workforce to be fully prepared if Ebola were to infect Malaysians.


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‘Global effort needed to fight Ebola’

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: To effectively combat the Ebola outbreak, international communities should work together to coordinate and mobilise resources to ensure adequate humanitarian response on the ground, says Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Datuk Hussein Haniff.

He said at this juncture, it was crucial to ensure that support to the affected countries was coordinated and sustained at an international level.

“It is also important for all UN agencies to stay proactive, coordinated and flexible in responding to the unparalleled challenges posed by this deadly epidemic,” he said at the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday.

“The challenges posed by the outbreak would be overwhelming for any single country to cope alone.”

Hussein said Malaysia commended the contributions and pledges by countries to fight the pandemic.


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State of our health

Saturday, September 20th, 2014


If Malaysia went for a full health check today, this is what doctors will say, writes Kasmiah Mustapha

LIKE most other countries around the world, Malaysia is grappling with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which include heart disease, diabetes, stroke and hypertension.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the top five contributors to the health burden in the country are NCDs, similar to those of developed nations.

WHO, which described NCDs as an invisible epidemic, stated that these diseases were driven by forces, such as rapid unplanned urbanisation and unhealthy lifestyles.

At the same time, Malaysia also have to deal with other issues, such the emerging and re-emerging of infectious diseases. Here’s a look at the major health issues the country is facing at this time:


In Malaysia, coronary heart disease has been the number one killer for the past three decades. According to the National Cardiovascular Disease Database, the average age of heart attack sufferers is 59. While there is no official data, there are cases of people younger than 40.

Data also showed that of the 16,866 patient admissions from 15 main hospitals in Malaysia from 2006 to 2010, the rate of in-hospital mortality for heart attack was 10 per cent. Sudden death cases are almost usually determined as due to heart attacks. Between 70 and 80 per cent of sudden cardiac deaths are caused by coronary heart disease.

Factors that increase the risk of coronary heart disease include being overweight, high levels of cholesterol, lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, high blood pressure and diabetes.

What we can do: With the increasing number of childhood obesity and young smokers, it is likely that younger people will suffer from coronary heart disease. This is because many risk factors start during childhood and some can even develop within the first 10 years of life. Behavioural changes are important to prevent coronary heart diseas and avoid fatal heart attacks.


In the second National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) in 1996, it was found that 4.4 per cent and 16.6 per cent of the adult population were obese and overweight respectively. In the latest survey conducted in 2011, the figure have increased to 5.4 million or 33.3 per cent of adults are pre-obese and 27.2 per cent or 4.4 million are obese.

It seems that obesity in the country has even surpassed that of neighbouring countries. A recent study published by the British medical journal The Lancet has put the country as Asia’s most obese. The study showed that 49 per cent of Malaysian women and 44 per cent of men were either obese or overweight.

Childhood obesity is also another problem that the country is facing. Results from a study by the Institute for Public Health of the Health Ministry found that the prevalence of overall overweight among Malaysia’ primary school children — between 7 and 12 years old— was at 19.9 per cent. One out of five are overweight.

What we can do: Sedentary living and an unhealthy diet have been blamed for the rising number of people who are overweight and obese. It is important that each individual and parents be aware of the impact of obesity as it is not a solitary health issue. Obesity poses a major risk for serious diet-related NCDs, including diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and certain forms of cancer.


The fourth NHMS 2011 showed that there has been an increase of 20.8 per cent rate of diabetes from five years earlier. In 2001, it was 8.3 per cent among adults above the age of 30. In 1986, the first NHMS reported a prevalence of diabetes at 6.3 per cent.


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‘Set up more mental healthcare centres’

Monday, September 8th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has been called to set up more Community Mental Healthcare Centres (CMHCC) and to organise extensive mental health programmes to address the growing number of people affected by mental disorders.

Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the government should allocate more funds to the ministry in the 2015 Budget to tackle the escalating number of mental disorder cases nationwide.

“The setting up of CMHCCs is a good approach and will help deal with stigmatisation, create awareness on mental health and empower the service users and their families.

“Such centres should be established in every state,” he said in a statement.

Social inclusion, recovery, and community reintegration had been touted as the main principles of the mental health system, he said.

The National Health and Morbidity Report 2011 showed that 1.7 per cent of Malaysian adults expressed suicidal tendencies, 0.9 per cent had planned to commit suicide, while 0.5 per cent had attempted suicide.

Lee said the number of suicides reported by the ministry could be under-reported, as there were also cases of other social problems that reflected the country’s mental health status.

“The suicide rates disclosed by the Health Ministry could be higher because these figures were based on post-mortem evidence.

“Other social ills, such as divorce, child abuse and baby dumping are also a reflection of the mental health status of the population,” he said, adding that there was growing evidence of increasing mental diseases.

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People in pain more likely to develop insomnia

Friday, September 5th, 2014

The risk of long-term sleep problems are higher for people reporting widespread pain, says new study.

Older adults with pain for more than a day are more likely to report trouble sleeping years later, according to a new study. It might not be just the pain that’s leading to insomnia, the researchers say. Instead, much of the connection could be explained by lifestyle changes that often happen due to persistent pain, says lead author Nicole KY Tang of the University of Warwick in Coventry, in the UK.

Little is known about how the presence of pain leads to the development of insomnia, says expert. – Filepic

“Although we know that people with chronic pain are more likely to report problems sleeping than people without any pain, we know very little about how the presence of pain leads to the development of insomnia,” says Tang.

Tang and her team mailed questionnaires to all people age 50 or older registered with GPs in North Staffordshire. People with pain lasting more than one day in the previous month were asked to shade the area of pain on a blank body diagram.

Researchers considered those with pain on both sides of the body, above and below the waist, and in the bones of the head, spine or ribs to have ‘widespread pain,’ while the others had ‘some pain.’

Participants were also asked to complete a sleep questionnaire. Anyone with trouble falling or staying asleep, waking early, and waking up feeling tired and worn out on most nights of the last month were put in the insomnia category.

Three years after the original survey, the researchers sent out repeat questionnaires. Altogether they had answers from 6,676 people.

About 3,000 had some pain at the beginning of the study, while about 1,800 had none and 1,800 had widespread pain.

At the beginning, most people with each kind of sleep problem had widespread pain, fewer had some pain – and very few had no pain at all.

Three years later, compared to people without pain at the start, the people with pain were more likely to say their sleep problems had worsened, according to results in the journal Rheumatology. And those with widespread pain at the start were twice as likely to develop insomnia as those with no pain.


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His health: The manly thing to do

Friday, September 5th, 2014

The challenges to improving men’s health are myriad, not least of which is the general male attitude towards taking care of their health.

There was a man who had never seen a doctor in his adult life. One day, after retirement, he had chest pains while climbing the stairs. Two days later, he had a heart attack and died.

This could serve as a cautionary tale for most men, who often treat their health as an afterthought, assuming that they have ample time and opportunity to fix the problems as and when they occur.

Men’s health issues have long been over-simplified, running the risk of becoming a parody, such as the one where middle-aged men lament about erectile dysfunction while their long-suffering wives look on.

This one-dimensional perspective does not even begin to hint at the complex spectrum of factors that contribute to men’s health, including different life stages, socio-economic factors, traditional and cultural stereotypes, as well as changing disease trends.

Yet, here we are – with several generations of men who have witnessed rapid socio-economic development, dramatic cultural changes and sophisticated medical and technological advances, but relatively far less progress made in terms of creating an environment where men are encouraged to take control of their health.

Important man-date: There's a complex spectrum of factors that contribute to men's health, including different life stages, socio-economic factors, traditional and cultural stereotypes, as well as changing disease trends. - MCT

Important man-date: There’s a complex spectrum of factors that contribute to men’s health, including different life stages, socio-economic factors, traditional and cultural stereotypes, as well as changing disease trends. – MCT

A complex, layered picture

Let’s look at the context in which men live and age today. It is a rapidly greying world, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) noting that “the proportion of people aged over 60 years is growing faster than any other age group, as a result of both longer life expectancy and declining fertility rates”.

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Trouble sleeping: a warning sign of suicide in older adults

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

In a new study, people age 65 and older who reported trouble sleeping were more likely to commit suicide than those who slept well.

Doctors who treat patients with depression or a history of suicide attempts should consider sleep problems a further warning sign, experts say.

“The majority of individuals who die by suicide visit their doctor in the months preceding, and these are missed opportunities to enhance detection and intervene,” says lead author Rebecca A Bernert of the Stanford Mood Disorders Centre at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

While having poor sleep does not necessarily bring of suicide tendencies, researchers believe that it could be an early warning to underlining depression. – Filepic

Sleep can stand alone as a risk factor for death by suicide, even when depression is accounted for, Bernert says, though sleep problems are common for many people who should not be alarmed by this news.

Of the 14,456 people researchers followed over 10 years, 20 died by suicide. The study team compared the answers those 20 people gave in a series of interviews to questions about symptoms of depression, and mental and physical functioning to the answers of 400 others similar in age, sex and location.

Those who went on to commit suicide tended to rate their sleep poorer at the start of the study than the comparison group, which was true even when researchers took symptoms of clinical depression into account.

With depression accounted for, poor sleep quality was associated with a 20% higher risk of death by suicide, Bernert explained. Since only 20 out of nearly 15,000 people in this study died by suicide, even with a 20 percent increase in risk the absolute chance of dying by suicide would still be less than two tenths of one percent.


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