THE Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (a registered body embracing 11 Colleges and 15 Chapters representing medical specialists in Malaysia) is deeply saddened and concerned by the findings of the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), which showed that there is little to no recorded improvement in the prevalence and risk factors of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in this country.
The only notable progress is the reduction in the prevalence of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), which has gone down from 47.7% in 2015 to 38.1% in 2019.
If preventive and corrective measures are not urgently put in place, many Malaysians are on track to contract chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported on June 1, 2020 that prevention and treatment services for NCDs all over the world, Malaysia included, have been severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As our country continues to make progress in our fight against the pandemic, we must refocus our resources to address NCD prevention and treatment. The government must develop and implement a long-term plan for our health system to efficiently manage both Covid-19 and NCD care services until a vaccine for this new coronavirus is discovered.
This is important because people living with NCDs who are also infected with Covid-19 are more prone to severe symptoms and have a higher mortality risk. We cannot tackle one issue without addressing the other. Preventive care must be prioritised in the reorganisation of our health system. The rakyat have proven throughout the Covid-19 crisis that given the proper guidance and tools, they will abide by the necessary preventive measures to protect their health and that of their loved ones.
Innovative solutions must be introduced to tackle the risk factors for NCDs as displayed in the 2019 NHMS findings. These measures should also offset the potential negative impacts of extended movement control, such as reduced physical activity and mental health, which can result in poor eating habits.
Finally, the government must invest more in primary care services, as early and regular screening is vital in treating NCDs. The Enhanced Primary Health Care (EnPHC) Initiative launched in 2017 was a move in the right direction in increasing access to healthcare for all Malaysians, and especially those from lower income groups.
The revival of this initiative, along with others under the National Strategic Plan for NCDs 2016-2025, must be incorporated into the government’s long-term health plan for managing Covid-19.
The full extent of the pandemic’s impact on our health system and people with NCDs remains to be seen. However, there is clear evidence of its disruption in other areas of healthcare as well as its disproportionately harmful effects on people with NCDs.
The 2019 NHMS report is a wake-up call for Malaysians to take urgent action for our health in the future.
ACADEMY OF MEDICINE OF MALAYSIA
Source: The Star