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Sunday August 18, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday August 18, 2013 MYT 11:36:12 AM
by audrey edwards
PETALING JAYA: An “army” of volunteers is being lined up by the Health Ministry to be its fighters in the war against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, heart illnesses and cancer.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said it hoped to have some 50,000 volunteers in a year from the community level, adding that great importance had to be given as diseases like diabetes and hypertension were taking a major toll on Malaysians.
“It’s on the rise because as society becomes more affluent and people’s lifestyle changes, the risk of these kind of diseases tends to increase,” he said in an interview.
“What we hope to do is identify community-based groups who will become our partners in this process and we will empower them by giving them the knowledge and the tools so that they can be continuous partners with us in the war against lifestyle diseases because it cannot be an ad hoc programme. It should be something continuous and well thought of so that it can have results.”
He cited the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2011, which found more than 15% of Malaysian adults have diabetes.
“We need to have a more vigorous attempt at causing behavioural changes in Malaysians to reduce impact of these diseases. Although we have a lot of programmes, we are going to review them and see how we can achieve greater grassroots’ activities to ensure more success and better results.”
The ministry’s deputy director- general for public health Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the ministry was unable to transfer its doctors, nurses and assistant medical officers to work at the community level or outside the health clinics or hospitals as they were also providing essential services to an increasing number of people.
He spoke of collaboration with other government agencies such as the Social Development Department (Kemas) to be the “agents of change” and to work at empowering individuals and communities to lead a healthier lifestyle besides enabling the Government to reach out to more people at risk of NCDs for early intervention.
The collaboration, he said, would add value to Kemas’ existing programmes and activities by inculcating a healthy lifestyle culture.
Training for phase one was expected to start in September and other agencies being looked at included the Rukun Tetangga, he said.
Dr Lokman added that the empowerment would make use of three major strategies – increasing the level of awareness of knowledge, translating the knowledge into action, using practical skills and behaviour that can be sustained continuously and creating a health-promoting living environment.
Five entry points – weight management, healthy eating, physical activity, early detection of NCDs and smoking cessation – would be used.
Besides being given brochures and leaflets, staff would also be provided with other tools such as flip charts and patient diaries and equipment to screen basic NCD risk factors such as weighing machines, blood pressure machines and glucometers.
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