Health Ministry vows to shift focus to non-communicable diseases as Covid-19 lets up

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Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin delivers his speech during the launching of a health protection scheme for the B40 group (PeKa B40) at the Ministry of Health in Putrajaya, April 28, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin delivers his speech during the launching of a health protection scheme for the B40 group (PeKa B40) at the Ministry of Health in Putrajaya, April 28, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Apr 28 — Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today his ministry has pledged to now focus on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), after years of being occupied by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the ministry can now rechannel its focus, as the pandemic has started to subside and the country has started its transition towards the endemic phase.

“Although we are still always carrying safety precautions, in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is under control in Malaysia and that is why we are brave enough to allow more relaxation [on standard operating procedures] for the people.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic is under control, the MOH can now place focus again on NCD epidemic although the Covid-19 pandemic is a public health emergency, NCDs are long-term,” said Khairy during his address at the launch of the health protection scheme for the bottom 40 per cent households called PeKa B40.

NCDs refer to diseases that cannot be transmitted from one person to another, such as cancers, diabetes, strokes, heart diseases, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Khairy explained that this is due to the nature of NCDs that do not manifest themselves in patients over a short period, unlike the coronavirus.

“Even if you are infected with Covid-19, in three or four days manifestation is noticeable, there are onset symptoms.

“But if we have NCDs, the symptoms and severity are only noticeable a couple of years later. We don’t know how to manage it well, we can’t control it well, we can’t treat it well and the disease would only show itself in the next few years compared to Covid-19,” he said.

He also drew a comparison between Covid-19 and NCDs, labelling NCDs as akin to ticking time bombs where there is no way of telling when they might explode.

“When it explodes, is it too late because we would be forced to treat and we cannot carry out prevention steps for NCDs and from it affecting the people severely,” he said.

He pointed out that up until today, only half a million of 5.9 million Malaysians who are eligible for free health screening have benefitted from the facility.

“Since [free health screenings] introduction in 2019 until December, 31, 2021, a total of 555,311 health screenings have been conducted under the PeKa B40 scheme.

“This number has decreased if we compare in 2020, but given the pandemic factors and the movement control order, it can still be considered a commendable achievement.

And as of March 31, 2022, the total number of PeKa B40 health screenings is 582,746, he said.

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