Look at health budgets as investment, not expenditure, says Khairy

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has called for health budgets to be viewed as investments rather than expenditure, especially in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

He said that for decades, the most effective medicines have been almost fully subsidised by the government to ensure the best possible health outcomes for cancer patients.

He noted that novel treatments were still accessible to patients through innovative financing models, patient access schemes and industry-sponsored clinical trials.

"People who are healthier and able to survive cancer can carry on working to help rebuild their lives, the economy, and the country," he said in a recorded keynote address during a virtual conference on Improving Access to Cancer Treatment and Care here on Friday (Oct 15).

Khairy said there was a serious need for consideration on effective investments and interventions in cancer prevention, timely diagnosis, advances in therapies, and care delivery models which have reduced the number of cancer deaths, improved survival rate, and improved quality of life for those living with the disease.

He said about 49,000 people in Malaysia were estimated to be diagnosed with cancer last year, with the number expected to rise to more than 66,000 per year by 2030.

Khairy said colorectal cancer was the second most common cancer among Malaysians and 65% of cases were diagnosed late.

As such, the Health Ministry had introduced immunochemical faecal occult blood tests (iFOBTs) as part of the screening process, targeting those aged between 50 and 75. (Occult blood means it cannot be seen with the naked eye.)

"We have also taken some steps to encourage early detection using a self-testing kit for human papillomavirus (HPV) because it has the potential for women to overcome barriers to screening, detect cervical cancer in its early stages, and bring patients in for treatment as early as possible," he added.

He pointed out that resorting to traditional or supposed alternative treatments upon learning of a cancer diagnosis rather than immediately going for allopathic medicine had resulted in significant treatment delays.

According to the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report 2012–2016, breast cancer was the highest occurring cancer among Malaysians.

The two-day virtual conference organised by the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, the Cancer Care Working Group and the M3C Taskforce with multi-sectoral stakeholders is to reflect and discuss the progress, gaps and opportunities in supporting cancer treatment and care in Malaysia.

The event also saw the virtual launch of a White Paper on Cancer Care Challenges, Gaps And Opportunities In Malaysia, outlining three key areas for action to reduce the impact of cancer on Malaysians and five recommendations for cancer policy reform. – Bernama

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