Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Ministries join hands in tackling obesity in schools.

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017
Dr Subramaniam says the module will serve as a guideline for teachers to monitor their students’ eating habits.

Dr Subramaniam says the module will serve as a guideline for teachers to monitor their students’ eating habits.

THE Health Ministry and the Education Ministry are working together to come up with a training module to control the problem of obesity among students.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam (pic) said the module would serve as a guideline for Physical Education teachers to monitor their students’ diet and eating habits.

He said that almost every school has a teacher who now monitors the students’ fitness level. They also provide training programmes, activities and education continuously to tackle the obesity problem.

“The ministry is also concerned with the students’ food consumption in school. We have implemented various initiatives, including providing information on the food that can be sold and those that must be prohibited,” he said recently at a management conference organised by the Health Ministry.

The objective was to expose and educate parents to the many health and social issues that were related to obesity, said the minister.

Both the ministries had also introduced the Young Doctor Programme to educate primary school pupils on the importance of a balanced diet.

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Big data and the future of healthcare industry

Friday, December 1st, 2017
(File pix) Improvements in primary public healthcare have contributed to increased life expectancy.
By KAMAL BRAR - November 30, 2017 @ 11:06am

ONE of the greatest challenges facing governments around the world is how to provide their citizens with effective and affordable healthcare. This is in fact a highly complex set of problems with multiple causes and a variety of actions needed in response. Happily, advances in technology are holding out the promise of addressing the challenge.

As in developed countries around the world, Malaysia’s healthcare providers must deal with a rapidly ageing population, leading to an influx of patients, and increasing pressure on general practitioners and hospital emergency departments. People are living longer — which actually reflects one of Malaysia’s success stories — healthcare. In the 60 years since independence, we have increased our lifespan by about 20 years.

Improvements in primary public healthcare, such as sanitation, food safety and protection against infectious diseases via vaccination, have all contributed to this increased life expectancy. Unfortunately, however, living longer has not translated to better quality of life.

Of particular concern are the statistics on obesity and diabetes. The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 revealed that obese Malaysians make up 17.7 per cent of the population, compared with just 4.4 per cent in 1996.

The same survey found that 17.5 per cent of Malaysians aged 18 and above — around 3.5 million people — have diabetes. In 2006, this figure was 11.6 per cent.

One thing is clear from these numbers — more Malaysians are having to live longer in ill health.

Will the country be able to cope with the increasing number of the elderly and ill? The proposed Aged Healthcare Act is a start, though its primary aim is better regulation and monitoring of aged healthcare centres in the country.

The healthcare industry has always generated large amounts of data for purposes of patient care, compliance and record-keeping. The advent of the Internet of Things has caused an explosion in data, from sensors to health-tracking applications and devices that healthcare providers can tap into to optimise resources, bring greater efficiencies and develop an integrated healthcare system.

The capture and analysis of this mass of raw data has the potential to transform healthcare, to enhance the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare to meet the needs of Malaysians across different stages of their healthcare journey — from diagnosis and treatment, to post-discharge follow-up.

Big data in healthcare refers to electronic health data sets that are so large and complex that it would be difficult to manage and analyse using traditional software and data management tools and methods. With big data, healthcare organisations have the ability to let multiple hospitals exchange information, leading to a 360-view of their patients, so doctors can give a more complete diagnosis.

Healthcare services companies have gained significant value through the ability to take in data from a variety of sources, such as lab and patient data, to recognise patterns and supply this data to doctors to provide recommendations on how patients can improve their health. Without Big Data, none of this would be possible and healthcare organisations would be operating without having the complete picture.

When a person’s medical records are shared among all public health institutions, the patient’s journey is simplified from primary to tertiary care, in both the public and private sectors, as any doctor treating the patient would have full access to his or her medical records



KK had highest HIV/AIDS cases in 2016

Friday, December 1st, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: City Hall Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai disclosed that Kota Kinabalu recorded the highest numbers of HIV and AIDS cases in Sabah in 2016.

“Last year, there were 108 HIV cases with one death and 39 AIDScases with 12 deaths recorded in Kota Kinabalu,” revealed Yeo.

“Until October 2017, there are 762 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Kota Kinabalu had received treatments,” said Yeo during the launch of Kota Kinabalu-level World AIDS Day 2017 celebration at University College Sabah Foundation in Sembulan here yesterday.

The Health Ministry hoped at least 80 per cent of the PLHIV qualify to receive the antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to help reduce the death of AIDS cases, said Yeo in his speech read by its Environmental Health Department director Robert Lipon.

To date, he said there are 21 health and community clinics as well as four government hospitals in Kota Kinabalu providing various facilities and screening on HIV and AIDS.

“The people are encouraged to make use of all these facilities to check their health status so that preventive steps can be taken to control the spread of HIV in the country,” called Yeo.

He said the government had taken the efforts to reduce new HIVcases from 21.7 per 100,000 people in 2000 to 11 per 100,000 people in 2015 through providing ARV treatment, counselling, care and support.

Kota Kinabalu Health Department officer Dr Jiloris @ Julian Fredrick Dony said the State Health Department will embark on a project to achieve zero HIV by 2020 in Kota Kinabalu through a collaboration with government agencies and non-governmental organisations.

By Paul Mu.

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Nutritionists to work together with PTAs nationwide to increase awareness on healthy eating.

Sunday, November 26th, 2017
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam on a walkabout after launching a health campaign, the Kem Nak Sihat “Bersama Komuniti Kekal Sihat” (Creating a healthy community together). Pix by Mohd Asri Saifuddin Mamat

KLANG: Nutritionists will be sent to schools nationwide to hold nutrition talks and classes with Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA) to enlighten parents on the importance of healthy eating in childhood.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the programme, “Awareness on Health Eating with PTA”, organised in collaboration with the Education Ministry, aims to educate parents and promote a healthy eating lifestyle.

This, he said, would help bring down the number of overweight and obese children in the country, as well as prevent non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

“I have asked the ministry’s nutrition department to organise classes with PTAs, especially with mothers because they play a crucial role and have a greater influence in selecting the choice of foods and drinks for their children.

“Hence, if they are well informed on the proper diet required for children, on the amount of fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates to take per meal and so forth, it will help create a healthy society.

“Parents sometimes treat their children to fast food as a reward for an achievement. This, in the long run, will become a culture in the family and the child will associate success to fast food.

“Therefore, if parents have the information needed, it will help them make better choices when it comes to food preparation or eating out,” he said, adding that the programme, which started early this year will be expanded to schools nationwide in due time.

Dr Subramaniam told reporters this after launching a health campaign, the Kem Nak Sihat “Bersama Komuniti Kekal Sihat” (Creating a healthy community together) here today.

The Kem Nak Sihat is an initiative by the Health Ministry to increase awareness on the need to practice a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising. It will be conducted nationwide.

This year’s Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results saw the inclusion of Body Mass Index (BMI) component in the Primary School Assessment Report (PPSR).

It was revealed that more than 50,000 Year Six pupils nationwide are obese.

The results showed that a total of 268,314 (63.4 per cent) students recorded normal BMI; 56,584 (13.4) students are at risk of being obese; 58,294 (13.8 per cent) students are obese; and 40,347 (9.5 per cent) students underweight.

For the National Physical Fitness Standard, 40,957 (9.5 per cent) candidates recorded ‘very high’ fitness levels and 168,101 (38.8 per cent) candidates recorded high fitness levels. The other 189,929 (43.9 per cent) candidates recorded fit fitness levels and 3,644 (0.8 per cent) candidates recorded unfit fitness levels.

Malaysia’s National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 found that 17.5 per cent of those aged 18 and above, or 17.5 per cent of the 3.5 million total, have diabetes.


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Malaysians need to up intake of fruits and vegetables to battle obesity, diabetes: Subramaniam

Sunday, November 26th, 2017
(File pix) According to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents (2013), children below 7 years old, should be given two servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit daily. For children and adolescents aged 7 to 18 years, they need to have at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruits daily.

KLANG: More than 85 per cent of Malaysians do not consume sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables daily. This, despite the fact, that the nation has a host of fruits and vegetables.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said eating enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis could help reduce the risk of many diseases, including certain forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes type 2 and obesity.

“Despite well-known health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, Malaysians are not consuming enough.


“Our study on vegetables and fruits intake among Malaysians showed only a small percentage of people actually consume enough fruits and vegetables as per our dietary guidelines.

“What our survey showed was actually pathetic. The figures are in fact worse than that (85 per cent). People might be eating fruits and vegetables, but they take only a little compared to a certain number of serving that we actually recommend in our nutrition guideline.”

He told reporters this after launching a health campaign, the Kem Nak Sihat “Bersama Komuniti Kekal Sihat” (Creating a healthy community together) on Sunday.

Dr Subramaniam said besides government efforts and health awareness campaigns, there has to be a major psychological evolution among the people.

“Healthy dietary habits should be promoted to prevent diseases and promote optimal health.

“Besides that, parents should make it a point to inculcate sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables in their own diet, as well as that of their children’s.

“Studies have shown that there is a strong relationship between diets low in fruits and vegetables and obesity and diabetes.”

Malaysia’s National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 found that 17.5 per cent of those aged 18 and above, or 17.5 per cent of the 3.5 million people, have diabetes.

In addition, one in three (30 per cent) or about 6.1 million people have hypertension. Almost half of the population (47.7 per cent) or about 9.6 million people have high blood cholesterol level.

It also showed that the prevalence of obesity was on the rise with about 17.7 per cent (3.3 million) adults being obese, and about one out of three being overweight.

The recent Primary School Assessment Report (PPSR) revealed that more than 50,000 Year Six pupils are obese nationwide.

The World Health Organisation states that a healthy diet contains at least 400g (five portions) of fruits and vegetables a day. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and other starchy roots are not classified as fruits or vegetables.

According to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents (2013), children below 7 years old, should be given two servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit daily. For children and adolescents aged 7 to 18 years, they need to have at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruits daily.


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Expert: Treat stings with vinegar, not urine or water.

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

GEORGE TOWN: Never use urine to ease a jellyfish sting.

The best first aid treatment is vinegar, said Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs) director Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan.

“Vinegar will stop any stingers still stuck on the victim’s body from firing more venom,” she said.

She also said not to wash the affected part with freshwater.

“Stingers are microscopic. They are inside the nearly invisible tentacles of a jellyfish, which could still be stuck on a victim’s body.”

Dr Tan said now that two box jellyfish species are breeding in Penang, tourism players need to do more to ensure public safety.

She said medical practitioners must be alert to the possibility that victims may have had a brush with a box jellyfish and develop Irukandji Syndrome.

She said Cemacs, under Universiti Sains Malaysia, is planning a workshop on dealing with jellyfish on Dec 4 for anyone invol­ved in sea or beach activities in Penang.
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Drug abuse could lead to acute mental disorder, says doctor.

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Drug abuse, especially club drugs, may not only induce short term mental problems but also trigger schizophrenia among those who are predisposed to it, said consultant psychiatrist Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid.

He said cannabis and methamphetamine could trigger schizophrenia in drug users who have risk factors such as family history.

The Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Addiction Science Research director warned that an early onset of schizophrenia due to drug use would require treatment for life.

For drug-induced psychosis, the users’ behaviour could suddenly become abnormal and they suffer from hallucination or delusion and behave aggressively, which mimic schizophrenia, said Dr Rusdi.

“If drugs are taken in the long term, some psychosis may be persistent and may turn into schizophrenia. It is not known yet if the condition will become permanent,” he said.

He said drug-induced psychosis might be acute and could lead to drug users harming or killing others.

Dr Rusdi said the University Malaya Medical Centre sees 30 to 60 cases of drug-induced psychosis every month.

Patients usually recover within three days to two weeks with treatment but if a drug user returns to the habit, he or she will have continued psychosis, he said.

He added that those wanting to kick their drug addiction may require life-long counselling.

Young patients are usually school dropouts who become dependent on their parents, he said.

He said most addicts start abusing drugs between the ages of 20 and 30 but some start as young as 12.

Dr Rusdi said there was effective treatment for opiates available but no medication yet for newer drugs.

He said most major hospitals had treatment for drug addiction and those with affected family members can seek help there.
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Exclusive: ‘Kiddie packs will help fight illicit cigarette trade’

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

ALLOWING the sale of smaller packs of cigarettes makes sense for a number of reasons, tobacco companies argue.

The major reason, of course, is financial, but it is not just for the benefit of these companies, but others, such as retailers and the government.

The reason for this is the staggering numbers of illicit cigarettes available in the market, which go for anywhere between RM3 and RM5 per pack of 20 sticks, compared with between RM12 and RM17 for legal ones.

Citing government-culled statistics, they say an average of 60 per cent of cigarettes in the Malaysian market are illicit, meaning that the government loses out on 60 per cent of the revenue in the form of excise duties, and this amounts to billions of ringgit.

British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd (BAT Malaysia) managing director Erik Stoel says the biggest challenge the industry faced is competing against illegal cigarette trade in Malaysia.

“The trade in illegal cigarettes in Malaysia has grown to an extent that it now dominates the market in the east coast states, where retailers are openly selling them on their shelves.

“These smugglers and retailers are not deterred by the punishment and fines they get, if caught, because the profit they make is worth the trouble.”

Stoel says penetration for illicit cigarettes varies.

For instance, he says, in states with more urban areas, the statistics are below the national average of 60 per cent.

But in the east coast, where the earning power is lower, the numbers are much higher.

Kelantan, he says, has a penetration of 83 per cent for illicit cigarettes, while Terengganu shows a 75 per cent market penetration.

“While enforcement is crucial and ongoing, it is a very challenging task to clamp down on the supply of more than 11 billion sticks of illegal cigarettes that is moving around.

“Strong enforcement to curtail supply is important, but this alone will not shift illegal into legal consumption.

“Due to this uncontrollable influx of smuggled cigarettes, the Customs Department has lost a lot to the illegal trade, especially in terms of tax revenue.”

JT International Bhd (JTI Malaysia) managing director Guilherme Silva shares Stoel’s views on the reintroduction of smaller packs, adding that there is the possibility of a reduction in cigarette consumption.

He says when a consumer buys a 20-stick pack, it is likely that he or she will finish the whole pack in a day and not keep it overnight because of freshness issues.

“If they buy smaller 10-stick packs, they might stop at one box a day and get a new box of 10 the next day.”

With the increased cigarette prices, says Silva, more and more smokers are turning to illicit ones, even though they know the risks of smoking such cigarettes are higher due to unregulated amounts of nicotine and tar.

“(If we have smaller packs), there is a possibility that these smokers will buy legal cigarettes with regulated amounts of nicotine and tar.”

Both Stoel and Silva insist that “kiddie packs” will not encourage the young to smoke.

They say excise duties on tobacco products are based on each stick, meaning that the price of a pack of 10 — between RM7 and RM9 — will still be higher than buying a pack of 20 sticks of illicit cigarettes.

Silva says the industry hopes that the government could consider their proposal for the reintroduction of small packs as a pilot project with a three-year duration, before observing its trend and impact.

“Malaysia is among the top three Asean countries in the trade of illicit cigarettes, above the Philippines, Cambodia and even Indonesia.”


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Teaching educators about healthy eating

Sunday, September 10th, 2017
Huee explaining the importance of consuming nutritious food and drinks to pupils of SJK(C) Kheng Chee Puchong.

Huee explaining the importance of consuming nutritious food and drinks to pupils of SJK(C) Kheng Chee Puchong.

TEACHERS need to be taught about healthy eating to prepare them in the fight against junk food, says the Association of School Canteen Operators Malaysia (Ascom).

Its president William Huee said some teachers were not aware of how unhealthy certain foods and beverages were, such as carbonated drinks that were packaged as sports drinks.

A canteen operator since the 1970s, Huee founded Ascom in 1976 after realising that canteen operators like him could be selling food that was unhealthy.

“The authorities fined me RM500 for selling teh tarik and RM700 for selling popcorn. Once I realised these foods were unheal-thy, I wondered if other canteens sold equally unhealthy food,” he said.

Huee now works with Zubedy (M) Sdn Bhd’s #SaySomethingNice campaign to run the #EatSomethingNice project to educate students to stay away from junk food and eat more nutritious meals.

He visited three schoolsin the last two weeks and plans to visit more after the UPSR exams.

During the #EatSomethingNice roadshow at SJK(C) Kheng Chee Puchong on Wednesday, he conducted interactive classes with about 900 primary students.

Huee, who had run his programme with 1.5 million students from kindergarten to college, said #EatSomethingNice planned to start a workshop to teach teachers on what students should be eating.

School headmaster Lim Wah Lim said while the school canteen offered healthier food options like fresh buns and noodles, unscrupulous hawkers outside school grounds still sold junk food to students.

“When we see the ice cream sellers outside the school, we immediately call the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) to ask them to leave.

“But if the students know about healthy eating habits and nutrition, they will not buy the junk food,” he said.

Under the Local Council Guidelines, street vendors – often seen on three-wheelers and small vans – are illegal if operating without a business licence.

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New ways to fight obesity

Saturday, September 9th, 2017
There are collaborative community nutrition promotion programmes between professional bodies and companies targeting groups like children, and pregnant and lactating women. FILE PIC

THE obesity epidemic is rapidly escalating in Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia, where a recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) highlighted that the country has the highest obesity and overweight prevalence in the region — 13.3 per cent and 38.5 per cent of the population, respectively.

This is leading to a huge economic burden, with the cost of obesity spiralling to US$1-2 billion (RM4.3-8.6 billion) last year — equivalent to between 10 and 19 per cent of the country’s healthcare spending.

This makes the country the second-highest spender in Asean for obesity-related health problems, according to the report commissioned by the Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN).

To address this healthcare burden, a paradigm shift is needed. This includes more attention on preventive healthcare; consumer, especially childhood, education on healthy nutrition, multi-stakeholder partnerships and knowledge exchanges.

Obesity in Malaysia is largely driven by rising income — more money means greater access to food, and often times, unhealthy food choices. This, coupled with the high-calorie food that is consumed daily and a lack of exercise, is making more people gain weight faster.

More critically, the issue is amplified by a lack of awareness and the general view held by most Malaysians that obesity is a cosmetic issue rather than a health issue, with many failing to make the connection between obesity and non-communicable diseases, such as heart attack, stroke and diabetes, which account for nearly three out of four deaths.

Solving the obesity crisis requires tailored strategies that fit within the local environment.

More importantly, it requires strong partnerships and open engagement between the government, food industry and civil society — from both the public and private sectors.

Taking into consideration the important roles that each of these parties play will be vital in tackling obesity.

For example, government bodies and agencies set the strategic direction for obesity prevention and ensure that necessary measures and policies are well implemented. That said, initiatives at a national level, especially those targeted at the diverse health and food industry, can be quite limited.

This is where the private sector plays an equally important role, by recognising the significance of promoting healthier choices as a core part of their business.

Fortunately, the country’s food industry is steadily incorporating this as part of their business plans.

Business leaders are increasingly engaging with the government and other public players on ways they can provide better food options through product re-formulations and “healthier choice” labels.

They also work closely with the government and other non-profit professional bodies through the annual Nutrition Month Malaysia (NMM) programme.

This is a collaborative initiative of three professional bodies, namely the Nutrition Society of Malaysia, Malaysian Dietitians’ Association and Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity, and is supported by the Health Ministry.

A worthy illustration of a public-private partnership approach, the NMM is a national community education plan that sees different players working together to encourage the public to adopt healthier lifestyle through outreach events and activities.

There are also several other examples of collaborative community nutrition promotion programmes between these professional bodies and corporate companies, targeting specific groups like children, and pregnant and lactating women.

These examples highlight how a multi-stakeholder approach can efficiently reach out to the community.

It would be difficult for one sector to work alone to solve a country’s obesity crisis.

This is where public-private partnerships can be a part of the solution — by bringing the food industry, academia, civil societies and public sector together in a strategic alliance to identify and recommend intervention that can have an impact on the country’s obesity problem.

For the public and private sectors to collaborate successfully, there has to be a transparent and honest dialogue. Companies in the private sector need to identify and be open about any conflicts of interest that their respective businesses may have in relation to the promotion of a healthy and obesity-free lifestyle, and manage these appropriately with the public sector.


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