ROYAL Philips Electronics recently launched the Asean Healthcare Consultation 2012: Addressing Non-Communicable Diseases in South-East Asia, in support of finding sustainable, long-term answers and solutions to issues associated with non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The initiative aims to bring together policymakers, patient groups, academics and healthcare providers in seven countries to find answers to key modern-day healthcare challenges in an aligned, international and sustained approach.
Philips aims to bring together a broad group of experts to take a holistic view of the challenges posed by NCDs.
Access to healthcare for NCD patients is an increasingly important but seemingly intractable issue across South-East Asia, and was also a core point of discussion at the recent 11th Asean Health Ministers meeting in July.
The precursor to this year’s programme, the Asean Access to Healthcare Symposium, had a broad, regional focus.
While retaining a regional theme, this year’s shift towards greater localisation signals Philips’ determination to effect real and positive change on the ground.
Experts participating in the seven roundtables in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines all recognised the need for pro-active and sustained leadership combined with effectively targeted local advocacy.
Philips hopes that constructive debate and knowledge sharing among this Asean-wide network of experts may result in practical, innovative policy solutions that would help ease the growing burden of NCDs on national healthcare systems.
“Philips recognises the scale of the challenge. We are in the midst of an unprecedented epidemiologic transition, and the region needs to come together and consider new and innovative solutions to control and prevent NCDs,” said Philips Group Malaysia CEO and chairman Naeem Shabah Khan.
“The inaugural Asean Healthcare Consultation has sparked some ideas that may be further developed into actionable policies and initiatives.
“NCDs are a growing concern in Southeast Asia, causing more than 2.5mil deaths in the region every year and will continue to rise. In Malaysia, NCDs, especially obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and smoking-related diseases, continue to dominate the headlines.
“While significant improvements in healthcare infrastructure have been made, more will be required and we need to act quickly to implement sustainable methods of controlling and preventing NCDs before they cripple the healthcare system.
“Among the many ideas that were discussed today, we identified that a pressing need is to form an advisory body of specialists from various backgrounds to support the efforts of governments and healthcare providers across the region.
“The NCD challenge is multi-faceted and solutions must be holistic and dynamic. Key challenges include an aging society, lack of participation from the community, a shortage of healthcare professionals and rising healthcare costs.
“With strong commitment and perseverance from stakeholders, we hope the looming crisis will be abated,” Asean Healthcare Consultation moderator Assoc Prof Dr Loong Yik Yee, who is also Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology head at Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Medicine and Health Sciences Faculty.
NCDs are the biggest cause of death worldwide, causing more than 36mil deaths in 2008.
In effect, two of every three deaths in the world can be attributed to NCDs.
South-East Asia also faces an NCD epidemic, which causes 2.5mil deaths annually and is responsible for 60% of deaths in the region. As the impact of NCDs increases, coupled with an aging population, annual NCD deaths are projected to continue to rise worldwide.
NCDs, which are also projected to be the leading cause of disability throughout the world by 2020, will become the most expensive problem faced by health systems. Losses in global economic output due to NCDs will total $47trillion, or 5% of GDP, by 2030.
The prevalence of NCDs and its risk factors in Malaysia are following the global trend — increasing at an alarming rate with rising income and behavioral changes, coupled with stressful lifestyles, unhealthy food intake and increasing alcohol and tobacco consumption.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDs are estimated to account for 67% of all deaths in Malaysia.
From 1996 to 2006, Malaysia saw a dramatic increase in the prevalence of behavior-linked diseases, including a 43% increase in hypertension, 88% increase in diabetes and 250% increase in obesity.
According to the Health Ministry’s Health Informatics Centre, 60 to 70% of total health clinic attendance are due to NCDs, and the most common form of premature death (under the age of 60) is due to cardiovascular diseases.
Overwhelming priorities in Malaysia are preventive education and support services, to lower the incidence of common and preventable diseases.
The Health Ministry has undertaken an important initiative in promoting healthy lifestyles by calling upon communities to play a bigger role in maintaining their health while the Government creates an environment that promotes wellness and healthy living.
Aggressive efforts to increase awareness for the practice of healthy living are undertaken through nationwide Expanding the Healthy Lifestyle and Encouraging Healthy and Active Lifestyles campaigns.
Both initiatives, which emphasise healthy eating, physical activity, anti-smoking and mental health, will target schoolchildren, adolescents, women and the elderly to ensure better health outcomes and promote sports and recreational activities to enable people to adopt healthy and active lifestyles.
Through these interventions, NCDs can be reduced through a primary healthcare approach to strengthen early detection and timely treatment.
Evidence does suggest that such interventions are excellent economic investments because, if applied to patients early, they can reduce the need for more expensive treatment.
The Asean Healthcare Consultation replaces Philips’ annual Asean Access to Healthcare Symposium.