Panel #1: Politics in Healthcare

Exploring the macro-perspective on policy and decision making in Malaysia!

This panel discussion will provide an outlook on healthcare policy and decision-making in Malaysia. A recent podcast broadcasted on BFM [1] acknowledged that health literacy is at an infant stage in Malaysia. This is evident in the recent General Election where manifestos of both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan failed to sufficiently address significant healthcare problems in Malaysia. There was a lack of structural reformation for the modernization of healthcare in Malaysia to cater for the 21st century. Both parties seem to think that the core of healthcare problems in Malaysia can be solved by mushrooming hospitals — but how sustainable is this? More importantly, the public seems to be apathetic and indifferent towards this — there is no demand in greater input towards healthcare.

In developed countries such as the United Kingdom and United States, we can see sprawled over international media that such significant issues related to healthcare could make or break an election campaign. As such, there is a dire need to generate greater engagement with the public about healthcare in Malaysia. More importantly, apart from a handful who pen their opinion on local news articles, why aren’t there any engagement among us, healthcare-deliverers and professionals in regards to the healthcare landscape of this nation? This mentality and culture of passivity among Malaysians towards healthcare needs to be improved as it is not sustainable, especially with a rise in the aging population and a stark increases in non-communicable diseases.

To tackle the aforementioned healthcare problems plaguing Malaysia, health reform must be carried out. Health-related policies such as limiting operating hours of eateries, imposing sugar tax and conducting national health campaigns have been a subject of discourse among the relevant ministries. However, to address such policies, we need to address trade policies and the overlap of jurisdiction among these ministries. Furthermore, there have been problems implementing policies in the past, such as the delay and a lack of engagement between the media and the Health Ministry. [2]

Health policies on its own will not solve the enormous impact that NCDs have on the Malaysian population. We need to take a second look at the Malaysian healthcare system. It is well-known that preventive care is more cost effective than curative medicine. This medical philosophy will equip the Malaysian healthcare scene to approach the rise in NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, a problem which is aggravated when compounded with the rise in ageing population. There is a hospital-health divide, with more emphasis placed on hospital care, rather than primary care in the community. More resources should be catered for primary care, to keep the patients out of the hospital in the first place. On top of that, there is an ill-distribution of primary care services in the rural areas, with rural clinics having lower availability of services and resources. [3, 4]

Malaysia can boast of achieving Universal Health Coverage, but is such an acclamation mere hypocrisy as marginalized groups of people in this country fail to receive basic healthcare needs? 40% of Orang Asli children are malnourished by 2 years of age and up to 80% suffer from stunted growth by school-going age. [4] As a result, chronic malnutrition in these children lead to their bodies lacking the necessary energy and protein source to fight off infection such as pneumonia. This is the prime cause of a high mortality rate, five times the national average, among Orang Asli children. Unfortunately, other communities such as the urban poor, immigrants and even the LGBT community face such an unjust phenomena, and we hope to address the needs and concerns of these marginalized groups.

 

References

  1. BFM (2018). [podcast] PUBLIC HEALTH #5: VOTE FOR HEALTH. Available at: https://www.bfm.my/public-health-5-vote-for-health.html [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018].
  2. Chu Meiyi (2018, January 18). Malaysia implements 13 health policies, sparking national debate. MIMS Today. Retrieved from https://today.mims.com/malaysia-implements-13-health-policies-sparking-national-debate
  3. Lum M. (2018, January 10). Malaysia’s healthcare system is at a crossroads. Star 2. Retrieved from https://www.star2.com/health/2018/01/10/healthcare-system-at-a-crossroads/
  4. Kaur S. (2013 July 18). Great strides in Malaysia’s healthcare system. The Star Online. Retrieved from  https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2013/07/18/health-malaysia-university-melaya/
  5. Singh A. (2018 May 28). Plight of our orang asli children. Free Malaysia Today. Retrieved from http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/05/28/plight-of-our-orang-asli-children/