PM: White Paper timely to stave off health challenges

KUALA LUMPUR: The development of the Health White Paper comes at the right time to make the national health system more resilient in facing future challenges, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

He said the health challenges faced previously and what to expect in the future should serve as a basis to improve and strengthen the existing health system.

After more than two years since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, a comprehensive plan is needed to ensure that the well-being of Malaysians remained strong in the future, he added.

“Our country’s health system, either public or private, has been functioning perfectly well, enabling the majority of Malaysians to enjoy good health, especially when Covid-19 cases reached the peak.

“However, we should not be complacent because there will be many new obstacles arising that will challenge the level of effectiveness of the existing health system,” he said at the launch of the Health Policy Summit 2022: The Future of Our Healthcare – Health White Paper Development here yesterday, reported Bernama.

The Prime Minister said the Covid-19 pandemic had presented serious health challenges for the coming years, including the issue of an ageing population that posed a major challenge to the country’s health and social systems.

He said Malaysia was expected to reach ageing nation status by 2030 when those aged 60 and above make up 15% of the population, contributing to the increase in disease prevalence rates and demand for healthcare from the group, which was estimated to be two to three times higher than that of younger adults.

Ismail Sabri said the rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) would also increase with one in five adults in the country having diabetes and one in three adults suffering from hypertension.

Spotlight on health: Ismail Sabri at the launch of the Health Policy Summit in Kuala Lumpur. With him is Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. — ART CHEN/The StarSpotlight on health: Ismail Sabri at the launch of the Health Policy Summit in Kuala Lumpur. With him is Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. — ART CHEN/The Star

“Based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019, these numbers are worrying because most of them are unaware that they have them (NCDs). For example, 87% of Covid-19 patients who died were those who suffered from at least one chronic disease such as diabetes or hypertension.

“In addition, mental health problems are also on the rise, with 2.3% of adults suffering from depression while 7.9% of children aged between five and 15 have mental health issues, and this figure is expected to increase,” he added.

In this regard, Ismail Sabri expressed his hope that the national health system would support and help Malaysians stay healthy and no longer just focus on treatment and intervention after illness.

He said he also hoped the national health system would be able to meet the treatment needs of Malaysians in a sustainable and resilient manner in the face of challenges, including in a global pandemic situation.

The Prime Minister said the government would continue to play its role to ensure that the country’s healthcare sector remained resilient and flexible to face future challenges.

At the same time, he said efforts to ensure the effectiveness of the national health system should not be the responsibility of the Health Ministry alone, but also must involve all stakeholders including public and private sectors as well as non-governmental organisations.

“I believe that you also share the same hope and that the transformation of the country’s health system must involve various aspects including adopting the whole of government and whole of society approaches – namely, health is a shared responsibility.

“I also believe that if we work together and strive for goodness, we can redesign health services for Malaysians,” he said.

He also called on Malaysians to cultivate a healthy lifestyle by staying active, nurturing a healthy mind, eating healthily, not smoking and undergoing regular health screenings.

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