Monday, April 30, 2007

Concern over rising obesity

NST: GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians are eating more and exercising less. This has led to rising obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
He said the time had come for Malaysians to get their act together.
"Our problem is that we are eating more and exercising less. Malaysians love to eat.
"After we have finished lunch, we plan on what and where to eat dinner," he said in a speech during a health clinic organised by the Lions Club of Tanjung yesterday.
Dr Chua said statistics revealed that about 40 per cent of Malaysians were overweight.
He said a series of health activities would be organised by the Health Promotion Board this year under the leadership of Bakti welfare chairman Toh Puan Aishah Ong.

Chua: Apply for funds to promote healthy living

Star: PENANG: The Health Promotion Board wants NGOs and professional health associations to apply for funding to organise health-related activities.
The board, chaired by Toh Puan Dr Aishah Ong, is in the process of appointing a CEO, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
“Last year, the Cabinet approved RM37mil to help organisations promote healthy living among Malaysians.
“We hope more organisations will be encouraged to participate in the ministry’s Healthy Lifestyle Campaign,” he told reporters after launching a blood donation drive at Prangin Mall here yesterday.
Dr Chua said the ministry would double its efforts to combat the spread of diseases but added that the people must contribute too.
“We are now focusing on exhibitions and promotions through the media.
“Malaysians are aware of the need for a healthy lifestyle but they are not doing anything about it.
“My ministry has done all it can. What else can we do?'' he asked.
Dr Chua said most non-transmittable diseases like diabetes, heart ailments, stroke and cancer were linked to unhealthy habits and obesity.
“Malaysians eat too much. Coupled with the lack of physical activity, obesity sets in,” he said.
The minister said that over the last seven years, obesity among Malaysians had increased from 20% to 39%, with the number of women smokers was also on the rise.
“More women are picking up smoking because they think it is cool. Because men smoke, some women think they should too in order to be perceived as equals,” he said.

Include donor pledge in MyKad

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Chief High Priest of Malaysia Ven Rev K Sri Dhammaratana has suggested that information on organ pledges be included in MyKad to expedite organ extractions upon death.
“This is necessary as many organ donors have the tendency of losing their organ pledge cards.
“The information in MyKad would help to expedite organ extractions upon death and leave little room for objection or doubt from the next of kin,” he said yesterday.
Rev Dhammaratana said a donor would still need to sign a consent form to empower the authorities to extract his or her organs and another form to allow information of the pledge be made available to the National Registration Department.
“It would be better that a family member or relative be present when donors make their pledges.
“Upon death, it would be mandatory for the attending doctor to swipe the MyKad to verify if the deceased is a donor.
“If family members contest, the hospital authorities can always show them proof that someone in the family was aware of the voluntary pledge,” he said.
As of September last year, 99,000 people had pledged to donate their organs but Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said many pledges had “gone to waste” due to family objections.
Council of Churches of Malaysia president Tan Sri Bishop Dr Lim Cheng Ean concurred with Rev Dhammaratana’s suggestion, saying “how it is done is up to an individual.”
Selangor exco member for religious affairs Datuk Abdul Rahman Palil said the third party witness of the organ donor should be her/his spouse or parents.
Hindu Sangam president Datuk A. Vaithilingam said donors should have an alternative option if they did not want information about the pledge be available on MyKad.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Commit to safety, please

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Over 730 people were killed in work-related incidents last year, Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar said yesterday.
Statistics from the Social Security Organisation show that to date, 43,000 people have died at work. Another 22,000 people either died on their way to work or leaving their work places.
Rahman said there was a need to instil the "preventive culture" at workplaces to minimise risks.
He called on employers and employees to implement and abide by the Hazard Identification Risk Assessment and Risk Control (HIRARC) guidelines.
"Risks at work premises must be identified and assessed.
"This must be followed by the implementation of a hazard control system where hazard prevention measures are put in place," he said at the World Safety and Health at Work Day celebrations here.
Under the law, employers who fail in their responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace can be fined up to RM50,000 or be jailed up to two years, or both.
Employees are liable for a fine of RM1,000 or a three-month jail term or both, should they contravene the Occupational Safety And Health Act 1994.
The ministry has targeted to reduce the death rate to 3.5 per 100,000 workers by 2010.
The ratio now is more than 5.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, more than double the International Labour Organisation’s ratio of three per 100,000 workers.

TB, brought in by foreigners, a big threat again for Malaysians

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Tuberculosis or TB is a prominent disease among foreign workers, making it a big threat again for Malaysians.
Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency (Fomema) chief executive officer Dr Mohamed Ali Abu Bakar said many of the 1.3 million foreign workers who underwent health screenings by the agency last year were found to have TB.
“We've received various reports of foreign maids, for example, who passed TB on to the children of their employers.
“This alone gives us reason to regularly monitor and examine foreign workers as there is also the risk of foreign workers carrying other diseases such as Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV.
“With more workers from Myanmar, China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia coming into the country each year, we are working closely with the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) to identify and solve potential problems,” said Dr Mohamed Ali.
He declined, however, to provide statistics of foreigners in the country suffering from TB, stressing that it was the Health Ministry's prerogative to disclose the figures.
Since 2005, foreign workers have been required to undergo three health screenings during their stay in Malaysia – in the first month, after one year and during the second year.
MMA private practitioners chairman Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan voiced concern that three screenings were not enough.
“Many diseases lay dormant in the carrier until triggered by some external factor. This is especially true for TB, which is why foreign workers must regularly have checks,” he said after chairing the Second National Working Committee of Private Practitioners section meeting yesterday.

Chua concerned over cord blood storage ‘hype’

Star: PENANG: People should not get carried away with the current trend of storing the umbilical cord blood of newborns for future medical treatment, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
He said although the medical world did not recognise any treatment technique using the stem cells of umbilical cord blood, storing the blood had become a craze in Malaysia.
“The ministry is concerned about the craze and increasing demand for cord blood storage. The misunderstanding among the public has become quite serious. If there is a potential (for its use), the ministry will study it.
“But right now there is no medical evidence on the use of the blood's stem cells for treatment of diseases and conditions,” he said after chairing a meeting with representatives from 25 private Penang hospitals at Dorsett Hotel here yesterday.
Dr Chua said claims that it had the potential to treat heart diseases and control the ageing process were only “hype.”
He said three or four companies in Malaysia offered storage services for umbilical cord blood with some charging RM500 a year for the service.
“None of the companies are linked to any hospital,” he said, adding that the companies run on normal business licences and did not have to get any special permit.
With 480,000 births a year in Malaysia, Chua said it was not practical to keep storing cord blood.
“This is similar to the craze in the past when people stored their sperm in sperm banks but now people have stopped storing their sperm,” he added.

Hospitals need to itemise bills

Star: PENANG: Private hospitals are now required to itemise bills for patients and set up an inquiry committee whenever a complaint is lodged against them or the hospital staff.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said these requirements are stipulated in the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, which his ministry was now enforcing.
He said private hospitals are also required to give emergency treatment to anyone who seeks it, adding that they should not turn away critical patients.
He added that the Act gives patients the right to question and complain.
“They have the right to know the details of treatment accorded to them.
“All information pertaining to patients must also be kept confidential under the Act,” Dr Chua told reporters after meeting representatives of 25 private hospitals in Penang here yesterday.
Regarding the inquiry committee, he said it should provide answers within two weeks of receiving the patients' complaints.
“If the committee fails to do so, the patient can appeal to the Health Ministry director-general,” he added.
Dr Chua said the ministry had received 47 complaints against private hospitals, mostly about exorbitant charges, unsatisfactory treatment and being treated by doctors who were not trained in the relevant field.
On “health tourism,” the minister said that of the 31 private hospitals that serve foreigners, seven are in Penang.
He added, however, that the Penang private hospitals were collecting almost half of the country's health tourism revenue.

East-West medication at hospitals

Star: BUTTERWORTH: It will be East-meets-West at selected hospitals soon when the Health Ministry introduces a special project to offer traditional medicine and services to complement Western medicine.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the pilot project would initially involve three local hospitals and Chinese medicine practitioners from universities in China.
“The Cabinet has recently approved the integrative hospital project, which is expected to start in July,” he said.
Under the project, he said Kepala Batas Hospital would tie up with University of Beijing, Putrajaya Hospital with University of Shanghai and Sultan Ismail Hospital in Pandan, Johor with University of Nanjing.
Dr Chua said the traditional medicine practitioners would set up offices at the hospitals.
“My ministry has identified several modules and treatment methods such as acupuncture, massage and wellness programmes to be introduced at these hospitals,” he told reporters after opening the North Malaya Patent Medicine and Herbs Dealers Association’s new office in Jalan Raja Uda here yesterday.
“We will also send our medical team for training courses at the Chinese universities,” he said, adding that the ministry would later look at introducing Indian and Indonesian traditional medicine at local hospitals.
Chua said there were presently many untrained and unqualified individuals who provided traditional medicine services.
“Traditional medicine practitioners in the country must have a certain code of ethics to earn public confidence,” he said.
He said the ministry had so far registered 4,900 Chinese traditional medicine practitioners, 175 Malay traditional medicine practitioners, 69 Indian ones and 1,200 other practitioners offering complementary services such as massage and acupuncture.
On the escalating price of medicine, Dr Chua said the Government could not control the price of every single drug.
Asked about the recent food poisoning cases in Kedah involving children who consumed milk under their schools’ food subsidy programme, Dr Chua said the ministry was still investigating the source of contamination.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Course on toilet upkeep

NST: KOTA KINABALU: A college that teaches toilet upkeep and cleanliness?
With the deplorable conditions of some of our public toilets, there’s no denying that experts in this field are sorely needed.
And it may soon be a reality if plans by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to introduce such a college gets the nod.
The proposed curriculum, said Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew, is aimed at producing qualified and skilled manpower to handle toilet maintenance and cleanliness.
"Participants of the course will receive a certificate recognised by the government," Lau said after launching the Sabah branch of the Quality Restroom Association Malaysia, here.
Lau said the proposed college was expected to begin operation within the next two years.

Don’t simply use antibiotics, doctors told

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Stop prescribing antibiotics for viral infections.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican advised doctors to only prescribe antibiotics for bacterial infections.
He said the ministry was concerned over the increase in anti-microbial resistance as a result of antibiotics being used to fight viral infections.
"If we do not contain the problem, we will soon have a situation where patients will not be treated effectively looking at the fact that we do not have many new antibiotics being produced worldwide," he said.
Dr Ismail was speaking to reporters after delivering his keynote address themed "The resurgence of infectious diseases" at the Academy of Family Physicians of Malaysia and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners inaugural joint general practice conference.
"Not all infections, including fever, are bacterial infections. Antibiotics are meant for bacterial infections. Many cases coming to doctors are viral infections which do not require antibiotics," Dr Ismail said.
He said patients should not go "clinic hopping" when they were not prescribed antibiotics.
"Even if a patient is suffering from upper respiratory tract infection, it does not mean he has to be given antibiotics," he added.
He advised doctors to be very careful in prescribing antibiotics as little could be done in the event of resistance.
In his keynote address, Dr Ismail said infectious and parasitic diseases were the second highest cause of death worldwide.
Dr Ismail said Malaysia had been hit by several infectious diseases like Nipah Virus, SARS, dengue, typhoid and leptospirosis.
"We now face the Avian flu and a probable forecast of a pandemic," he added.
He said Malaysia was prepared with its National Strategic Plan to face the Avian flu.
"We have initiated simulation exercises nationwide in the event of outbreaks here," he said.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Simple test to check for 25 disorders in newborns

NST: GEORGE TOWN: The country’s first metabolic screening service for newborns was unveiled yesterday by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Doping Control Centre (DCC)
The service can detect about 25 disorders in four different categories — amino acid metabolism, urea cycle, organic acid and fatty acid oxidation.
All it takes is a single test, with results in fewer than three days. The test is most effective if carried out within 72 hours of a baby’s birth and after the first proper milk feeding.
DCC director Professor Dr Aishah A. Latiff said with early detection, conditions such as mental retardation and severe disability could be promptly treated.
She said doctors had started analysing samples from newborns at Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia in Kubang Kerian, Kelantan.
"We hope all parents will send their newborns for a screening.
"The test has proven to be reliable and highly beneficial in most countries that have implemented it," she said at the centre here yesterday.
The Health Ministry revealed that there were 200 metabolism disorder cases among newborns in general hospitals in 2005 and the figure rose to 300 last year.
To date, no hospital in Malaysia offers such a comprehensive testing.
However, the Institute of Medical Research had, for the past 15 months, conducted a pilot study on a similar screening test. The two-year study ends in August.
Although such testing is not mandatory in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and a number of states in the US have made it compulsory for newborns to undergo such tests.
Aishah said DCC would make the test available to all private and public hospitals as well as clinics throughout the country. Each test costs RM85.
Elaborating on the service, Aishah said a few drops of blood would be placed on a filter paper and sent to a laboratory for testing using a highly sophisticated equipment.
The DCC has three such instruments, costing RM1.5 million each.
USM vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Dzulkifli Abdul Razak assured users of the service their confidentiality would not be compromised.

Younger people can have stroke, too

Star: PETALING JAYA: Hypertension and stroke, the silent killers, are not “old folk's” illnesses any more.
Such cases have been recorded among those in the prime of their lives, some in their 30s.
Malaysian Society of Hypertension vice-president Dr Azani Mohd Daud said: “Younger people are getting fatter because they are not eating right and many are working longer hours, therefore they do not exercise much.
“This puts them at a higher risk of getting hypertension which can lead to stroke. More disturbingly, such illnesses do not have any warning signs. They are really the silent killers,” he said.
Dr Azani explained that the exact cause of stroke was not known but the interplay of risk factors such as hypertension, obesity and smoking contributed significantly to the condition.
Dr Azani advised the people, regardless of age, to regularly check their blood and sugar levels.
Stroke survivor Yap Kon Kooi, 66, remembers how his face went numb suddenly after a game of badminton more than eight years ago.
He later felt extreme exhaustion and when he slept, he had difficulty breathing.
“I couldn’t feel my face. It felt like my throat had narrowed and it was difficult for air to pass through.
“Later, after waking up, I tried to eat something. This only worsened the situation because I started to vomit,” he said.
Yap was forced to quit his business as his condition prevented him from doing strenuous activities.
Yap admitted that his uncontrolled diet and hectic lifestyle had contributed to his condition.
“Although I don't smoke, I must admit that my diet was unhealthy, resulting in my high blood pressure. I was taking medication for that but I still had a stroke,” he said.
Yap is now more careful with his lifestyle and his diet.

USM Creates History With Parkinson's Disease Surgery

KOTA BAHARU, April 24 (Bernama) -- The Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital (HUSM) in Kubang Kerian here has achieved a landmark when it successfully treated a long-suffering Parkinson's disease (PD) patient.
The feat was achieved last March 21 when an electrode implant was placed in the brain of a 54 year-old patient, HUSM consultant neurologist Professor Madya Dr John Tharakan K.J. told a media conference here today.
Retired Telekom Malaysia Berhad employee Che Idris Che Yusoff had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for 17 years.
Dr Tharakan said other than the electrode implant, the surgery which took about three hours also involved placing a battery in the patient's chest.
He added that the patient gave positive reaction during treatment signalling that HUSM had successfully treated other PD symptoms like essential tremor (ET) and dystonia which caused tremors and stiffness that lead to movement disabilities.
Seven specialists were involved in the thirty minutes surgery where the patient was not injected with anaesthetic except when the battery was placed.
They included neurosurgeon and neuroscience senior consultant Professor Dr Jafri Malin Datuk Abdullah and neurosurgery specialist surgeon Dr Abdul Rahman Izaini Ghani who is also a USM lecturer.
Dr Tharakan said the treatment involved placing a 0.8mm or 10mm wire (electrode) to a sensitive part of the brain and is connected with an electrical wire to a battery placed in the patient's chest.
"The 1.2mm wire can last a lifetime while the battery has to be changed once every five years at a cost of RM5,000.
"As soon as the electrode wire was in place and the switch at the battery was activated, the patient started to respond and the hand tremors then stopped," he added.
Dr Tharakan said the Parkinson's disease surgery at HUSM cost about RM90,000 compared with between RM200,000 and RM250,000 charged by private hospitals.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dengue fever strikes mainly in towns

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Research by the World Health Organisation has revealed that dengue haemorrhagic fever is found predominantly in urban and semi-urban areas.
It said that it was a misconception that dengue was a "low income" problem and only occurred in slum areas where there was a lot of stagnant dirty water.
The Division of Control of Tropical Diseases and Communicable Diseases of the WHO in Geneva said in a statement over 100 countries, with millions of people, were at risk of contracting the disease.
"Annually there are millions of infections and at times tens of thousands of deaths. Dengue has now become the most important mosquito-borne virus disease in the world. It affects young and old, rich and poor alike, especially those living in densely crowded urban areas throughout the tropics," it said.
Research conducted in Singapore revealed that condominiums and high-rise apartments were also not spared and it was discovered that Aedes mosquitoes could fly as high as 60 metres (21 storeys high).
Another popular misconception that mosquitoes only breed in dirty water, has also been found to be untrue as Aedes mosquitoes have been known to breed in clean water, including stagnant water with a circumference of a 20 cent coin.
The studies have indicated that if the water dries up, the eggs deposited there can survive up to six months and all it takes is a new water source to activate them.
Statistics showed that in the first five weeks of this year there were 16 dengue related deaths compared to 264 dengue cases and 72 deaths, last year.
Aedes mosquitoes breed indoors and outdoors and regular fogging, including spraying insecticides inside the home, can help break the breeding cycle of Aedes mosquitoes.

Stroke: You may be next... it's the nation’s No. 4 killer disease

NST: PETALING JAYA: At least six Malaysians are hospitalised with stroke every hour.
But the news gets grimmer. There was a 300 per cent increase in the number of people with stroke between 2005 and last year.
In 2005, 17,909 were admitted to government hospitals. Last year, the figure rose to 52,000.
But what worries Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek most is the fact that many victims die within a month with only 10 per cent fully recovering.
"The number of Malaysians suffering from stroke is increasing rapidly and this is worrying," he said at the launch of the National Stroke Association of Malaysia’s (Nasam) stroke book Understanding Stroke at Nasam House yesterday.
Stroke is the fourth largest killer of Malaysians. The other killer diseases are heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
"It is becoming common because of our ageing population and our unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle. Hypertension is another factor."
He said hypertension, a predominant risk factor for stroke, was becoming more prevalent among Malaysians.
"Some 30 per cent of the adult population suffer hypertension and this is a frightening figure," said Dr Chua, adding that other risk factors that led to stroke were heart disease, high cholesterol level, diabetes, smoking, alcohol, obesity and physical inactivity.
In Malaysia, stroke hits the health budget in the form of long and costly rehabilitation process. Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain cells bursts or is blocked.
More than 10,000 people in Malaysia die each year from diseases linked to hypertension, such as stroke, heart attack and renal failure, including 6,000 deaths due to coronary heart disease.
Three million suffer from high cholesterol while another 2.1 million have diabetes. Malaysia also has the highest number of overweight and obese people in Asia with 25 per cent of the population falling into this grouping.
"The risk factors for stroke can be reduced if Malaysians consumed healthy food, quit smoking and exercised."
The other factors which increase the risks of stroke were age (older people), gender (men) and hereditary.
Dr Chua said two-thirds of Malaysians suffered haemorrhagic stroke with the rest falling victim to ischaemic stroke.
Haemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts and bleeds, while ischaemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery serving the brain, disrupting blood supply.
Dr Chua said the most efficient way to prevent stroke was to educate the public on the disease, its causes, signs and symptoms.
He said the ministry had lined up a number of strategies under the Ninth Malaysia Plan to reduce stroke cases.
One measure was health promotion activities through the newly-established Health Promotion Board.
"The government has allocated RM37 million for the board to provide funding and capacity-building to health-related NGOs and health associations, so that they can act as catalysts to promote healthy living."
Dr Chua, who is Nasam patron, pledged RM100,000 to boost its educational activities and programmes.
Nasam has six centres nationwide providing rehabilitation services, including speech, physical, occupational and recreational therapies and group activities to 300 victims daily.

RM800mil for rural health clinics

Star: IJOK: A total of 350 health clinics, including one in Batang Berjuntai, will be built in rural areas nationwide under the Ninth Malaysia Plan to cater to the healthcare needs of Malaysians.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the project, costing RM800mil, had been approved by the Finance Ministry and tenders would be called in June.
“There are healthcare facilities in the rural areas even now but these are still not enough,” he said when visiting a health screening programme at SRJK(C) Ijok here yesterday.
The new health clinic in Batang Berjuntai will cost RM16mil while another RM4mil will be spent to upgrade several other clinics here.
Dr Chua said the projects would be carried out in stages, with clinics costing less than RM5mil monitored by the ministry while those above this amount would come under the Works Ministry.
Earlier in his speech, Dr Chua said that Selangor received more than RM1bil, which was the highest allocation from the Health Ministry, under the 9MP.
He also said that Malaysia was the only country in the world where the Government charged a minimum RM1 for consultation. Dr Chua added that the Government also absorbed 90% of the total expenditure for public healthcare.
“This year, the expenditure for administration alone in public hospitals and clinics, including salaries and medicine, is expected to cost RM8.5bil.
“The RM1 collected from the patients for the whole year will only come to RM200mil.
“This is the commitment of the Government to the people to provide quality healthcare,” he said.
Dr Chua said that since Independence, the healthcare sector had improved tremendously and this was evidenced from the increase in the average lifespan of Malaysians – from 56 years in 1957 to 71 years for men now and 76 years for women.
He added that other health indicators had also shown improvement, with the infant mortality rate dropping from 75 for every 1,000 births 50 years ago to just 5.5 now while the death rate of children aged five and below was 8.8 per 1,000 now compared to 57 previously.
Dr Chua, who is also MCA vice-president, said every election, including by-elections, were very important.
He added that the power-sharing principle and mutual respect within Barisan Nasional had ensured social and political stability in the country.

Chua Supports Suggestion To Set Up Specialist Panels

PETALING JAYA, April 23 (Bernama) -- Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has supported a suggestion for the setting up of specialist panels to reduce the number of medical negligence cases brought to court.
He said it was a good suggestion and one in conformity with the Private Health Care Facilities and Services Act 1998.
A provision under the act states that all private hospitals should set up a grievance committee to look into complaints by patients and give a satisfactory reply within 14 days.
If the private hospitals failed to give a satisfactory reply within the period, the complainants could forward their complaints to the Director-General of Health who would initiate an investigation before the case was brought to court, he said.
Chua was responding to retired High Court judge Datuk R.K. Nathan's suggestion on Saturday which was seen as being able to lessen the trauma on doctors, patients and their families.
Nathan had said that medical specialists should form their own guilds according to their discipline and each guild would then set up a panel of its own specialists to look into complaints of negligence to ascertain whether there was a need for a particular doctor to settle the case or fight it out in court.
Chua said private hospitals should initiate their own investigation before the director-general acted against them.
"We hope patients will avail themselves of these facilities under the Act but not many of them are doing it," he added.
He said the ministry was still amending the Medical Act 1971 on the role of the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) to make it more transparent, democratic and fair to the patients.
Under the amendments, the MMC's board, which currently comprises practising doctors only, should also have representation from laymen to give it more credibility.
The amendments would also allow complainants to intervene in the legal proceedings before the Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC).
"Previously, the complainants can be present with their lawyers at the proceedings but cannot intervene," he said.
Under the new act, the jurisdiction of the MMC would be enhanced where it would be able to look into professional issues besides ethical issues and infamous conduct of doctors as is the case now.
"This is important as we can see more patients coming to file their complaints on the services rendered which do not meet their level of expectation," he said.
Complainants would also be able to appeal to the civil court should their complaints be rejected by the MMC.

A Lot Of Details To Classify Ketum Under Dangerous Drugs, Says Chua

PETALING JAYA, April 23 (Bernama) -- Many details have to be looked into before ketum leaves and drinks can be classified under the Dangerous Drugs Act, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said Monday.
For instance, he said, the cultivation and possession of the leaves used as traditional medicine by the village folk were not illegal.
"It is only illegal if a person owns ketum products or ketum powder. So these are the things that the police and the Attorney-General should look into before classifying the leaves under the act," he said Monday.
He was commenting on a statement by Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Mohamed Johari Baharum yesterday that the amendment to the law should be speeded up to curtail the increasing incidence of ketum abuse.
Ketum, which is classified under the Poisons Act, contains mipragyniene -- a psychotropic drug used by addicts.
It is used by villagers as a medicine for fever, cough, sexual enhancement and to increase one's appetite.
Dr Chua said that the other things the police and AG should also look into were the quantity and quality of ketum and whether a person possessing the leaves was liable under the Dangerous Drugs Act.
Earlier, he launched the National Stroke Association of Malaysia's (Nasam) stroke book, "Understanding Stroke".
He said hypertension, a predominant risk factor for stroke, had become more prevalent among Malaysians.
The number of people admitted to the government hospitals would increase from 17,909 in 2005 to more than 25,000 in 2020 if the country's populace did not practise a healthy lifestyle, he added.
He said there were now six cases of stroke reported every hour and 52,000 cases per year.
Fatalities due to stroke had increased from 2,257 in 1990 to 3,245 two years ago.
"The most efficient way to prevent stroke is to educate the people on the causes, signs and symptoms of the disease," he said.
Dr Chua commended Nasam for the publication of the book to create greater awareness among the people about stroke. The book in Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and English is available at the Nasam centres in Petaling Jaya, Ampang, Ipoh, Melaka, Penang and Sabah.

Better Treatment For Erectile Dysfunction

KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 (Bernama) -- Malaysian men with erectile dysfunction (ED) can now have more control over the management of their condition via a new diagnostic tool called Erection Hardness Score (EHS).
Consultant urologist Dr Peter Ng Eng Pin from the Subang Jaya Medical Centre said the results of the treatment using the EHS had shown a significant improvement in sexual satisfaction, confidence and self-esteem in such men.
"In Malaysia, men with erectile dysfunction do not normally seek immediate treatment. But the new tool, which is based on a four-point scale to identify the different grades of erection as the optimal treatment goal, will enable them to bravely talk about their sexual performance," he told a press conference here organised by Pfizer Malaysia.
The EHS, as the first-target level for the treatment of ED, was launched at the European Association of Urology annual meeting in Berlin, Germany last month.
Based on the Pfizer Global Better Sex Survey, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in December last year, he said 35 percent of the Malaysian respondents were found to have moderate ED and another 11 percent with severe ED.
The survey of the sexual habits of 12,558 men and women in 27 countries, including Thailand, Japan, Finland and the United States, also revealed that Malaysian women rated the importance of hardness of erection with sexual satisfaction, he said.
Erectile dysfunction, which becomes more common with increasing age, affects between 13 and 28 percent of men, aged 40 to 80 years, worldwide.
Widely recognised as a couple's issue as it equally affects the partners of those suffering from the condition, it is projected that by 2025, a prevalence of about 322 million men worldwide will experience ED, an increase of 170 million in 1995.
It can also arise as a consequence of drug therapy, major surgery or radiotherapy, besides being a feature of a wide range of diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hyperlipidemia and hypertension.
Meanwhile, visiting British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy vice-chairman Victoria Lechmann said it was important for couples to develop dialogues and sexual intimacy and not being critical of their partner with ED symptoms by adjusting to the changing lifestyle. "In the United Kingdom, such couples smile more, have a better relationship and listen to each other's point of view as they have less anxieties after undergoing therapy together," said Lechmann, who runs two sexual dysfunction clinics back home.
She said many relationships suffered because partners did not talk more openly about their sexual needs or problems, which also affected their physical health in the long run.
Apart from medication, she did not rule out sex tools including vibrators, which are readily available in the UK of being useful, especially for women, to spice up a couple's sex life.

RM17.12 Million In Aid To Treat Chronic Diseases

KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 (Bernama) -- The Medical Aid Fund (TBP) had approved RM17.12 million to assist 1,199 patients with chronic diseases to pay for their treatment since its inception in 2005 till the end of last year, the Dewan Rakyat was told Monday.
Health Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said the Federal Territory topped the list with 234 recipients followed by Selangor (226), and Kelantan and Sarawak (122 each).
The applications were processed between one week and six weeks, he said when responding to a question from Datuk Shaari Hassan (BN-Tanah Merah).
On a suggestion that the fund management beef up its manpower, Lee said the ministry had to ensure that the fund was not misused while speeding up the distribution of aid to deserving cases.
"The applications are vetted by a technical medical committee which will discuss with the specialists on the kind of treatment or medical equipment required to treat the cases."
Replying to a supplementary question from Junaidy Abd Wahab (BN-Batu Pahat), Lee said the government had approved a RM50 subsidy for a mammogram for early detection of breast cancer and this was being managed by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
"We are helping women who could not afford to pay for the check-up by introducing the subsidy," he added.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Clinical trials in Malaysia

Star Health: According to Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, Malaysia would be a good place to host clinical trials.
WITH Asia being an emerging “power house” in pharmaceutical research and development (R&D), Malaysia wants in on the action when it comes to clinical trials, which plays an important role in the research of developing a new treatment.
However, the Health Ministry laments that Malaysia seems to be “ignored” with players preferring instead to go to countries like India, China, Thailand and Singapore.
Asia, after all has 80% of the 6.4 billion world population and Asean itself comprises more than 50 million people. “They seem to bypass Malaysia. The question is why,” said director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
“Maybe they do not know much about what we can offer. Or they know much about what we can offer but are saddled with problems like bureaucracy, delayed timelines or long approval processes.”
He said people were flocking to Asia because they wanted quality research besides cutting down on R&D cost.
And Dr Ismail, in a recent interview, listed many “good reasons” why Malaysia would be a good hub to host clinical trials.
Point number one, he said was the lower cost of doing clinical trials in Malaysia.
“We are good and cheap,” he said.
Clinical trials in Malaysia can be conducted in ministry establishments, private hospitals and medical teaching hospitals.
The recently launched network of clinical research centres (CRC) as a “one-stop-centre” for clinical trials to be carried out by the ministry was another indication of how serious the ministry took the matter.
The network will act as the main contact point where the 14 CRCs will facilitate access to the more than 50 general and district hospitals, and more than 100 health clinics as potential sites for clinical trials.
It is hoped that this could be further expanded to more sites in the future.
Phase I trials in Malaysia have improved from nil four years ago to seven in 2005, while Phase II trials were 11 in 2005 compared to two in 2003.
There were 96 Phase III trials in 2005 compared to more than 70 four years ago.
To reduce cost and shorten timelines, pharmaceutical companies are now outsourcing work to contract research organisations (CROs), who in turn were coming to Asia.
A report by Frost and Sullivan estimates that most of the world’s CROs are small niche players specialising in short-term projects while about 20 are large and global-reaching.
Another plus point is that Malaysia has a diverse genetic pool.
We are, he said, a multiethnic population, which would be tremendous for research, while Malaysia, he said, has a consistent record of achieving recruitment targets.
He went on to say that there was also strong government backing, where funding for research to the ministry under the Ninth Malaysia Plan was RM90mil.
In addition to this, the ministry’s infrastructure of having 14 clinical research centres (one in each state) and the future 9 Bio Sdn Bhd, which was the Institute of Natural Products, Vaccines and Biology, is good.
He was also quick to remind us that Malaysia has a strong regulatory framework where researchers have to have approved good clinical practise (GCP). Dr Ismail said that they underwent training and took examinations afterwards to get the certificate.
“This is so that the data generated from the trial will be of integrity and cannot be questioned by anyone,” he said.
Consequently, he said that the trained researchers would ensure the safety of human subjects where patients had the right to know issues such as their rights, why they were being enrolled, whether there would be any changes, alternative therapy and compensation.
“We have got dedicated staff and trained human capital to carry out the trials. We have trained more than 300,” he said.
One new venture set up by the ministry is the National Medical Research Register (NMRR), which is meant to help the industry and researchers identify good researchers who have a good track record.
He said that with the NMRR, eventually every clinical trial would need to be registered online. This would create a database that will give the pharmaceutical industry access to expert clinical researchers, the number of trials conducted and how many have been completed.
It is currently undergoing pilot testing by the Clinical Research Centre.
The networking of Malaysia’s research institutes with others such as the National Institute of Health in the United States is also a plus point.
“And the majority of our researchers speak comparatively good English,” he reminded.
Dr Ismail emphasised that not every trial was “simply” accepted but instead had to undergo a rigorous review, as it was necessary to ensure that all trials conducted were of high standards and patients were protected.
“Many may not realise the stringent monitoring and regular audits done by international regulators to ensure authentic data. They think we are just doing the trial, that all the person has to do is present to us. It is not that easy,” he said, adding that in any trial there were four “players”: the sponsor, monitor, investigator and ethics committee.
There were also lengthy procedures for obtaining approval, which include the Drug Control Authority and Medical Research Ethics Committee. In addition, there’s the need to comply with the International Committee on Harmonisation and Good Clinical Practice guidelines in areas such as recruiting trial sites and patients.
He said that six weeks was the average time taken for any organisation to obtain approval to carry out clinical trials in this country, provided they had all the necessary documentation.
Another reason for lack of interest in clinical trials, he cited was that patients in the developing world still had a measure of “fear and apprehension” because they did not know what such trials were all about.
“In developed countries, patients willingly participate in clinical trials because they view it as a means for researchers and pharmaceutical companies to develop new and improved therapies for human diseases,” he said.
“Many of them also volunteer to gain access to new experimental medications for their disease when all other treatments have been exhausted.”
So, he said it was important for clinicians who wanted to carry out research to give adequate information to the patients.
Among the issues being explored are the need to introduce new legislation or review existing ones to facilitate approval process, management of finances and protecting Intellectual Property rights, using ICT to increase efficiency in conducting clinical trials and create a database of clinical investigators and research done in Malaysia and need to have more awareness and education programmes.
Dr Ismail added that there was also a need to have specific human resource development strategies to build up a pool of experienced healthcare professionals who are trained and committed as clinical investigators and site coordinators.
“It is time to sit tight, look back and forward. And if we do not do anything about this, we will lose out,” he added.

Set up specialist panels

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Panels of specialists should be set up within various medical disciplines to cut down on the number of medical negligence cases brought to court.
This will consequently lessen the trauma on doctors, patients and their families.
Retired High Court judge Datuk R.K. Nathan made the suggestion in his keynote address at the “Assessing and Determining Quality of Life for People with Medical Disabilities” seminar on Saturday.
He said medical specialists should form their own guild according to their discipline and each guild would then set up a panel of its own specialists to look into complaints of negligence to ascertain whether there was a need for a particular doctor to settle the case or fight it out in court.
“This way, the moment a notice is given, the doctor or surgeon will be called up by the panel.
“If there is a clear case of negligence, the panel can advise the doctor to settle the case quickly,” said Nathan, who is also an expert in medico-legal cases.
Nathan said the findings made by the panels should be confidential.
He said it was timely that “the medical profession self-regulates itself” especially with the December landmark ruling by the Federal Court, which raised the standards for medical professionals when carrying out their duty.
The Federal Court unanimously ruled on a negligence suit by quadriplegic Foo Fio Na against Assunta Hospital and an orthopaedic surgeon that the Bolam test based on a 1957 negligence suit in England could no longer be used as the yardstick to measure the degree of negligence.
(The Bolam principle restrains the courts from scrutinising and evaluating the professional conduct of a doctor possessing a special skill and competence.

Parkinson’s patients being sent to psychiatrists instead

Star: PETALING JAYA: Some Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients have been misdiagnosed as suffering from depression and were referred to psychiatrists, said a neurologist.
“We have to teach the public that the moment they have tremors, they have to think about PD.
“Patients suffering from depression may have slower movements but not tremors,” said Dr Chew Nee Kong at the Red Tulip campaign on World Parkinson’s Disease Day recently.
He said some had also been sent to heart specialists because of their difficulty in breathing and to bone specialists because they had body aches.
“As a result of the non-specific nature of the disease, coupled with the lack of specialists and public awareness, diagnosis can be a challenge and delayed,” he said.
Symptoms of PD include the slowing down in speech and body movements, softening of voice and lacking in facial expression resembling ageing process.
Patients tend to think of these as a natural process and do not seek treatment, said Dr Chew.
PD is the result of a lack of dopomine, a biochemical substance that is needed for body movement.
Patients lack energy, have uncontrollable trembling of hands, sometimes of the head and jaw, and body stiffness.
“With newer medication and brain surgery, patients do not have to suffer anymore. PD patients can now lead normal lives for 15 to 20 years,” he said.
In 95% of PD cases, the cause was unknown while the other 5% were due to inherited genes or chemical substance in the environment, he said.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Breathe easier

Sun2Surf: KUALA LUMPUR (April 19, 2007): People with asthma can breathe easier and even cheat "sudden death" from the condition, with Simple Inhaler Maintenance and Reliever Therapy (SMART).
Asthmatics currently have in their possession two asthma control inhalers - one brown and another blue.
The brown inhaler is used in the morning and just before bedtime to prevent inflammatory effects of the disease.
The blue inhaler, which patients carry with them, gives them immediate symptomatic relief from broncho-constriction (narrowed air passage) during an attack but does not treat the underlying inflammation.
"So patients tend to be overly dependent on their blue reliever', which is not proper, as it does not provide good overall control because the inflammation is not kept in check," Prof Dr Richard Loh Li-Cher, consultant respiratory physician at the Penang Medical College, told journalists today.
He said there were also patients who totally ignored the brown inhaler, not using it twice a day as advised by doctors, so long as they are not bothered by a full-blown attack.
An impending full-blown attack actually gives tell-tale warning signs like wheezing and coughing, and turns chronically bothersome over a period of six days.
"It is sad that this six-day window of opportunity is lost and they finally use the blue inhaler to alleviate their condition which may have already turned chronic.
"For some, it may be too late, as their condition could turn morbid and fatal," Loh said.
To avoid such a situation, medical science has introduced SMART - a red three-in-one inhaler which carries a cocktail of medication for daily maintenance, a reliever for use when necessary, and a timed increase in anti-inflammatory therapy to sustain control.
Loh said a real life effectiveness and patient satisfaction study of 22 patients in Malaysia with severe asthma using the SMART approach was undertaken at a local public hospital.
"Lung function and asthma attacks over a three-month period were also appraised via interviews with nurses."
SMART was found to be effective and a safe treatment option for patients with inadequately controlled and moderate to severe asthma.
The results of the study have been peer-evaluated and submitted for publication in the Medical Journal of Malaysia.

Five organ harvesting centres to be set up

Sun2Surf: PENANG (April 20, 2007): The Health Ministry is planning to set up five regional centres nationwide for organ harvesting to complement transplant efforts which are now lacking due to poor coordination.
A coordinating centre in the Klang Valley will serve as a hub to relay information immediately and communicate with the regional centres so that when an organ donor is available for harvesting, the harvesting teams can be despatched immediately.
Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said a blueprint on organ harvesting is now being scrutinised by the ministry and will be implemented soon.
Lee said currently organ harvesting was only being carried out in selected hospitals where there were experts and if an organ donor died elsewhere, it was near impossible to immediately despatch a team to carry out the harvesting.
"With a population of 25 to 26 million people, sadly we have only about 100,000 registered organ donors (0.004%).
"There are at least 5,000 people on the waiting list for transplants but only 20 transplants can be carried out yearly due to organ shortage.
"Even when someone who is registered as an organ donor dies, we may not be able to harvest his/her organs due to various reasons, including the reluctance of the family members to allow the harvesting to be carried out.
"We have to double our efforts to dispel the wrong perception about organ donation and hopefully, more lives can be saved when there is an awareness among the people that their noble act can save lives," he said after officiating at the opening of a new dialysis centre set up by the Penang Fo Yi Haemodialysis Society today.
Lee said due to lack of kidney donors, at least 10% of the 13,000 end renal failure patients died yearly.
He appealed to NGOs and private organisations who have set up dialysis centres to treat 36% of kidney patients in the country to help educate the public on organ donation.
"It is just not enough for you to provide these dialysis centres, but you must also help to educate the people on kidney ailments and also on organ donations.
"It is alarming to note that where there were fewer than 50 people needing dialysis treatment in the 1980s but last year there were 13,000 on the list which is growing about 2,700 new patients," he added.

We stick by report, says Chua

Star: JOHOR BARU: The Health Ministry does not want to be drawn into a debate with Maktab Sains Mara Merbok on the measles controversy.
Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who had said that measles was the diagnosis of the illness that hit 539 students earlier this week, is standing by his statement despite the college countering that only two students were down with it.
Dr Chua said he would stick by the report submitted by the district medical health officer.
“The report states that more than 500 students in the college displayed symptoms such as fever, headache and sore throat. These symptoms can be diagnosed as a viral-lie fever, which could be measles.
“We believe someone who is trained (in this matter). The one trained is the doctor, not the principal (of the college),” Dr Chua added.
A Bernama report quoted college officials as saying that the matter was blown out of proportion by the media.
On another matter, Dr Chua gave an assurance that the safety of patients and the quality of services at the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Pandan, Johor Baru, would not be compromised.
He was responding to a report in The Star on missing portions of the ceiling outside the hospital.
A hospital spokesman had said that the ceiling problem was due to structural defects.
The spokesman said the hospital had asked the ministry for an allocation to repair the ceiling.
Dr Chua said he was not aware if any allocation had been made.

Logo to help you choose healthier food

STar: JOHOR BARU: Consumers will find it easier to eat healthier soon with the launch of the “Healthier Food Choices” logo.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that the public should be able to spot the logo on food packaging in stores in three to four months.
To be allowed to sport the logo, food products must meet ministry requirements including having a lower sugar, fat and salt content.
Dr Chua said the initiative was meant to combat the trend towards overweight and obese Malaysians.
“Since 1991, the ministry has embarked on a Healthy Lifestyle campaign. There is increasing awareness but it is not being put into action, in terms of exercise, in terms of consumption of food,” he said.
He said the ministry has held discussions with manufacturers such as Nestle and Dutch Lady who have agreed in principle to the move.
“Food manufacturers can play a role to help the ministry. If we can reduce the sugar, fat and salt content, we can produce food that can be branded as a 'Healthier Food Choice',” he said, adding that the manufacturers have until June to submit their application to the ministry.
A technical committee will then analyse the food content to ascertain if they meet the requirements.

Friday, April 20, 2007

JB hospital ‘sick’ again

Star: JOHOR BARU: The Sultan Ismail Hospital is facing structural problems again.
Large portions of the ceiling at the front of the building had to be removed last week due to structural defects.
The RM550mil hospital was closed in September 2004 for 17 months due to a fungus problem. It was only reopened in February last year.
The hospital’s deputy director (management) Md Yasin Ibrahim told The Star that the ceiling problem surfaced last week.
“We have informed Pantai Medivest that is responsible for the maintenance work at the hospital about the problem.
“It is investigating. It is believed that the cause is most probably due to structural defects,” he said.
Md Yasin ruled out strong winds and storms as reasons for the ceiling coming off.
“We noticed some portions of the ceiling are coming off, so we got the maintenance staff to remove them before they could fall on anyone,” he said.
He added that Pantai Medivest did not give an estimate on the cost of repairs, or how long they would take.
He said the hospital would remain open, as the defects did not affect hospital operations.
“We have cordoned off the affected areas with tape to ensure the safety of patients and visitors,” Md Yasin added.

Expert: Go for annual blood sugar tests

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Those above 35 years of age are advised to check their blood glucose level annually, even if they do not have any symptoms of diabetes.
“Don’t wait until symptoms set in. It will be too late by then,” said Universiti Sains Malaysia senior consultant endocrinologist Datuk Dr Mafauzy Mohamed.
Diabetes could set in as far back as 10 years before symptoms appear, he said, adding that it was the sixth leading cause of death in the world.
He said that around 40% of heart attacks was due to diabetes, which was also the number one cause of kidney failure, blindness in adults and amputation, while 60% to 70% of patients suffered nerve damage.
He was speaking at A Diabetes Outcome Progression Trial media briefing yesterday.
“It is not a mild disease but a dangerous and deadly one,” he said.
The 1986 National Health and Morbidity Survey revealed that 6.3% of adults suffered from diabetes and, last year, the figure had almost doubled, he said.
The best way to combat diabetes is to control it at the pre-diabetic stage, where blood sugar level after fasting is 6% to 7%, or 7.8% to 11.1% two hours after a meal, he said.
“If nothing is done, the risk of getting diabetes will increase by 10% each year. If detected early, we can get the blood sugar to normal level or delay the onset of diabetes,” he said.
The Medical Journal of Malaysia reported that the condition of 80% of diabetic patients seeking treatment at private clinics in 2005 was not well controlled, while the figure was 67% in government clinics for 2006, he said.
Ideally, it is possible for people to achieve the 6.5% or below blood glucose level and not suffer any risks from diabetes throughout their lives, he said.
“The poor control could be due to patients not complying with treatment, proper diet and exercise, or doctors not prescribing more aggressive treatment,” he said.
Professor of medicine and senior consultant endocrinologist Dr Chan Siew-Pheng said patients who become diabetic at ages between 40 and 49 lose 10 years of their lives, and between 50 and 59, six years, and less for those who become diabetic older.
“The good news is that even if you start at a blood sugar level of 11% but it drops to 9%, you reduce the risks of complications,” she said.
With newer medication such as the rosiglitazone maleate, the declining function of insulin-producing beta cells has been delayed by up to 60 months before more drugs are needed to control blood sugar level, she said.

Rights to drugs sought

Star: SUBANG JAYA: Malaysia wants to reserve the right to import any patented drug and also wants the right to produce it locally if it is in the national interest or use it for natural disasters or non-profit purposes.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said Malaysia reserved the right to compulsory licensing under the Patent Act.
“We want to exercise our rights if a certain drug is important to us,” he said after presenting Pharmaniaga's Excellence Vendors Awards 2006.
The right to compulsory licensing is among the topics of discussions in the Free Trade Agreement talks with the United States.
Dr Chua said drug prices would not be affected through the country's exercising of its rights but it would give intellectual property protection to the local industry.
He cited the mostly patented anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients as an example.
He said Malaysia started importing the drugs from India in 2004 and managed to bring down prices from RM1,200 per month for a patient to RM200. The price has since been brought down further to RM150 a month as the drugs were now produced in Malaysia.
Dr Chua also rejected a US request that patents for diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical procedures for humans and animals should be granted.
“A procedure should not be patented. If it is patented by a doctor, then other doctors cannot use the same method,” he said.
He said Malaysia would allow data exclusivity (DE) for pharmaceutical products for five years from the same date as in the country of origin and that the decision to give DE was under the purview of the Drug Regulatory Authority.
The minister said that no DE would be given to pharmaceutical companies that merely changed the strength of dosage of a product or how it was presented.
However, DE would be given for a new indication of a known product.
DE happens when a company creates a new product and has to submit all information to the ministry's Drug Regulatory Authority in order to market it. The data then becomes exclusive rights of that company.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Malaysians rank sixth fastest in love-making

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians spend an average of 19.9 minutes when they make love.
Hardly the stuff romance novels are made of, they ranked sixth quickest in the world in terms of time spent in a love-making session.
However, if it’s any consolation, the average time spent is above the global average of 18.3 minutes.
India’s lovers were the world’s quickest, spending only 13.2 minutes per session.
Nigeria once again topped the ranking on a leisurely 23 minutes.
Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and Australia were all well below the world average time.
Malaysians were just a heartbeat ahead of China’s lovers who took 20 minutes.
This was the findings from the "Global Sexual Wellbeing Survey" by condom-maker Durex. It was revealed at the ongoing World Congress on Sexual Health in Sydney, Australia.
More than 26,000 people from 26 countries were screened online by global research firm Harris Interactive from August to September last year.
Durex’s local distributor SSL Healthcare Malaysia general manager Voong King Yee said sex played a fundamental role in the physical and emotional well-being of a person.
The survey found two in five (or 38 per cent) of the 1,026 Malaysians polled were fully satisfied with their sex lives.
Forty per cent of Malaysian women were completely satisfied compared with 37 per cent of their male counterparts.
Want to know how you can spice things up?
"Seven in 10 (74 per cent) of the Malaysians surveyed said the situation could be remedied by injecting some old-fashioned love, tenderness, adventure and romance.
"Two-thirds (64 per cent) like more intimacy and better communication with their partners," said Voong.
Even in the "country of romance", France, they do not get it right all the time. Only 25 per cent said they were satisfied with their sex lives.
Nigerians, on the other hand, know something others don’t. They have the most people (67 per cent) satisfied with their sex lives, followed by Mexicans (63 per cent) and Indians (61 per cent).
The survey found that Malaysians have sex 115 times a year compared with the global average of 103.
The Greeks made an Olympian effort of 164 times, with Brazilians the next most amorous at 145, followed by the Poles and Russians (both 143) and Indians with 130.
The survey also found that Asians were least satisfied with their sex lives.
Australia’s Bond University sex expert Gabrielle Morrissey said it reflected cultural issues relating to sex in Asia. "Work is more important than sex in many Asian countries."

Few Malaysians satisfied with their sex life

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Although most Malaysians agree that sex is important, fewer than two in five (38%) of them are satisfied with their sex lives.
According to the latest Durex Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey 2007/08 report, loss of romance and sexual prowess are key factors for the lack of sexual satisfaction.
SSL Healthcare Malaysia general manager Voong King Yee said: “Many Malaysians have lost the sense of adventure, interest and romance, which explains why they are not fully enjoying their sex lives.
“Sex plays a fundamental role in our physical and emotional well-being. Thus, it is important that we protect and nurture our sexual health as well as that of our partner's,” he said, adding that 64% of Malaysians would like more intimacy and better communication with their partners.
The survey was conducted on more than 26,000 respondents across 26 countries, of which 1,026 were Malaysians.
The respondents were asked about every aspect of their sex lives. covering health, general well-being, education, beliefs, attitudes to sex, and social circumstances, in a bid to comprehensively chart what constitutes sexual well-being.
Consultant clinical andrologist, reproductive and sexual health specialist and Durex Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey local expert Dr Mohd Ismail Mohd Tambi said: “There are reasons why people are not satisfied with their sex lives. It could be due to problems in physical and emotional health as well as physiological issues such as vaginal dryness, painful sex, and erectile dysfunction.”
“Such issues can be dealt with and cured. Despite sex being perceived as fun and exciting by most, satisfaction is still only marginally equal between men and women, with 40% of Malaysian women saying they are satisfied, compared to 37% of men,” said Dr Ismail.
He pointed out that people could also improve their sex lives and sexual satisfaction by spending more time with their partners, de-stressing and introducing more romance into their sex lives.
“The ability to talk things out with your partner can lead to an emotional relationship filled with love and respect, which can then lead to ultimate sexual pleasure.

Housewife gave birth to only one baby, says dept

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: There is no second baby. And this is final.
Selangor Health department, after conducting an investigation into the alleged missing baby at the Sungai Buloh Hospital, said the complainant was not expecting twins as she had alleged.
"In fact, the woman was told many times before delivery that she was expecting one baby," said department director Dr Ang Kim Teng.
Dr Ang was commenting on the complaint lodged by housewife S. Aruputhamalar, 37, and her husband, P. Selvanayagam, 46, who claimed one of their twins was missing.
The couple had alleged that they were told by hospital authorities that Aruputhamalar was expecting twins.
They told a press conference on Monday that ultrasound tests confirmed she was expecting twins.
But after she delivered last month through Caesarean section, Aruputhamalar was told that she had given birth to a healthy baby girl.
Dr Ang said the hospital authorities had many times explained the situation to the couple.
"There is no second baby. Doctors had told them many times that only one baby was born. We will be preparing a report on the matter for the Health Ministry," she said.
When asked if there could have been a problem with the ultrasound, Ang declined to comment.
"We will wait until we have submitted the report."
Aruputhamalar and her husband took the matter to the MCA Public Services and Complaints Department. They also lodged a police report on Monday.
Aruputhamalar and her husband, a lorry driver, have three other children between the ages of 4 and 11.
Gombak police chief ACP Mohd Abdullah said foul play had been ruled out.
"There was no second baby," he said.
"They may have misunderstood what the doctors told them. There may have been problems with the ultrasound. Based on the explanation provided by doctors, we are certain that she gave birth to one baby."

IJN Performs First Complex Cardiac Surgery On Premature Infant

KUALA LUMPUR, April 17 (Bernama) -- The National Heart Institute (IJN) accomplished another milestone in cardiac surgery when it successfully performed the complex procedure on a premature infant on April 5.
Datuk Dr Azhari Yakub, who led the team of cardiothoracic surgeons, performed the surgery on Ong Yee Ling, who was born premature at 34 weeks via caesarean section at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (KLH) on Feb 3. She was referred to IJN on Feb 14.
"Yee Ling was diagnosed to have type A interrupted arch with Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), and underwent surgery to repair the interrupted arch and closure of VSD on April 5 and is currently in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with stable haemodynamics and is being treated for lung infection," he told a news conference here today.
"The success of this surgery means a lot to us and IJN, especially because it's quite a hard task to do surgery on a very small baby and that is the challenge," he said.
Dr Azhari said that during the 66-minute surgery, doctor had to cool down the patient with very low temperature of about 16 degrees and stop the blood circulation to the whole body, including the brain, for about 14 minutes.
"Within that time, the doctors managed to join up the lower and upper parts of the atria," he said, adding that the success showed that IJN had the capacity to deal with similar cases in future.
Meanwhile, Yee Ling's mother, Yap Soh Theng, 25, told reporters that five days after Yee Ling, her first child, was born she was informed that she had a hole in the heart.
Doctors at KLH referred Yee Ling to IJN and she was admitted on March 19 for surgery.
"Initially, I was afraid when I learnt of my baby's condition, especially when she was born premature," she said.
"I'm now relieved and happy with my baby's condition and I thank all the doctors who treated her." said Yap who had to quit her job as a clerk with a private company here to look after Yee Ling.
"The doctors said that Yee Ling can be discharged in a week or two depending on her condition," she added.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Here’s a new manual on how to treat the heart

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 40,000 patients died of heart diseases in public hospitals last year.
This represents 15.5 per cent of the total deaths in public hospitals.
"By 2010, cardiovascular disease is projected to be the leading cause of death in developing countries. It will be a huge challenge as clinical care is costly and prolonged," said Health Ministry medical division deputy director-general Datuk Dr Noorimi Morad.
She was speaking at the launch of the revised clinical practice guidelines (CPG) on heart attack and heart failure, released by the ministry and the Academy of Medicine on Friday.
The two bodies had worked on the revised guidelines together with the National Heart Association of Malaysia (NHAM).
The CPG was launched at the 11th National Heart Association of Malaysia Annual Scientific Meeting 2007.
Dr Noorimi said the meeting’s theme, "Cardiovascular Prevention: Targeting Today’s Goal", was appropriate as the number of smokers, linked to cardiac complications, was on the rise.
"Many of those diagnosed with cardiac problems are between the ages of 30 and 40. This group represents those at their productive peak. Their contribution to their family and the country is essential.
"Some are actually well informed and aware of the diseases but the problem is they fail to adopt a healthy lifestyle until it is too late."
Dr Noorimi said the ministry planned to set up cardiology centres in Alor Star, Ipoh, Kuantan and Kota Kinabalu by the end of the Ninth Malaysia Plan. Currently, there are 35 centres throughout the country.
The chairman of the committee on CPG for heart failure, Datuk Seri Dr Robaayah Zambahari, said the CPG helped in the management of patients and decision-making as treatments should be tailored to an individual.
"Healthcare personnel should be trained to treat cardiac patients properly while hospitals should develop management strategies to maximise treatment benefits."
She added the committee was also working on another CPG on the management of women’s diseases, considered another neglected area.
The revised CPG on the management of heart attack comes in two versions — a pocket edition for doctors to slip into their gown pockets and a larger one for the ministry.
Dr Jeyamalar Rajadurai, a committee member of the CPG for heart failure, said the prognosis for heart failure was worse than for some cancers.
"In a large community-based study, about 40 per cent of those with heart failure died within a year of initial diagnosis. About half of all deaths were sudden."
Prof Dr Sim Kui Hian, another committee member, said the guideline revision was in tandem with current research and findings.
"The CPG is widely circulated in various clinical institutions and will be used by specialists and practitioners as well as paramedics nationwide."

Number of women smokers has doubled to 480,000

Star: PENANG: The number of women in the country who have taken up smoking has doubled in recent years.
Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said 8% of the estimated six million smokers were women – which comes up to 480,000.
“This may not seem much, but several years ago women only made up of 4% of the nation’s smokers,” he said.
Lee said the ministry would continue with its efforts to discourage smoking, including controlling and analysing the market and creating awareness through its Tak Nak campaign.
“The price of a pack of 20 sticks of cigarettes is now RM7.40 compared with RM7 before the last Budget. According to a World Bank report several years ago, raising the price of cigarettes by 10% would bring about a reduction of 4% to 8% in sales.
“Other steps we have taken include banning the sale of loose cigarettes and small packs of eight, 10 and 12 sticks,” he said.
Lee said the Government was now formulating a Tobacco Products Act and that once it comes into force additional measures can be taken.
These include having images of damaged lungs on packets, registering cigarette factories and manufacturers, and stepping up checks to ensure that nicotine and tar content did not exceed permissible levels.

Worrying trend as charity turns big business

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Fund-raising for charity has turned into a booming business, with huge chunks of public donations ending up in the pockets of people who least need help.
These days, professional fund-raisers team up with charitable bodies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – all in the name of charity – and split the collections.
There are private firms offering management or marketing services to raise funds on behalf of NGOs who only seem all too happy to “pass the buck” to these “professionals.”
For example, if a particular charity home needed RM10,000 a month to sustain itself, then the order to the firm would be for it to raise at least RM20,000.
This was the deal involving one home for children with special needs and a professional fund-raiser, which had been handed a six-month collection “contract”.
What makes it more lucrative is that, apart from certain guidelines, there seems to be no written laws governing the way funds can be raised.
It could be through the sale of greeting cards, car stickers, badges or cookies, or even via organising huge fund-raising events.
Many of these charitable bodies raise funds in the name of the terminally-ill, those afflicted with chronic diseases and the handicapped.
But such collaborations are bad practices as far as Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon is concerned.
Urging the people to donate wisely, he said private firms which raised charity for a profit should be exposed.
He had also turned down people who approached him for such collaborations.
Women, Family and Community Development Ministry parliamentary secretary Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said she was aware that several NGOs registered under her ministry had engaged professional fund-raisers.
She affirmed that there were no laws to regulate such fund-raising but said the NGOs registered under the ministry which wanted to raise funds for charity could seek a letter of verification.
“However, such letters will not be issued to professional fund-raisers,” she added.
Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said those soliciting donations from door to door needed a police permit to do so.
“However, to me, getting a cut from charity does not make sense, besides short-changing the donors.”
Deputy Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Wong Kam Hoong summed it up this way: “Charity is no longer a culture of sharing and caring for the needy, once the cause is commercialised.”
Calling for laws to check fund-raising, Wong, an accountant by training, said it should be made mandatory for NGOs and fund-raisers to reveal the breakdown of monies collected.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Health Ministry's Latest Guidelines On Treatment Of Heart Disease

KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry today announced two sets of latest Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) for the treatment of heart attack and heart failure to ensure that patients are attended to according to the latest standards.
Deputy Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noorimi Morad said the CPG for treatment of heart failure and acute ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) or heart attack would be distributed to cardiologists and relevant specialists in the field as well as general practitioners and families.
There was a need to continue with current campaigns and seek ways to ensure that the target groups understood the CPG and applied them, she told a media conference after launching the CPG in conjunction with the 11th annual scientific conference by the National Heart Association of Malaysia (NHAM).
"What is necessary in Malaysia is to handle cardiovascular problems with the involvement of the doctor to ensure that the patients are accorded good treatment and the ailment is controlled to prevent complications," she said.
"The awareness among the people in the country about cardiovascular diseases is rising. However, despite the awareness, the practice of a healthy lifestyle is most lacking among those who know the risks of smoking and consumption of certain foods," she said.
Dr Norimi said the Health Education Unit took measures through advertisements and a media campaign to ensure that the health message was conveyed better, with more relevance and in an easily understandable manner.
"Besides, we are also striving to train -- apart from doctors -- a number of personnel of the associated groups such as nurses and medical assistants to get involved in preventive activities including counselling," she said.
She said that cardiovascular diseases, which had the fifth highest number of patients in hospital and the second highest number of deaths among diseases, could cause the cost of medicine to rise if left uncontrolled.
So far, the ministry had borne RM800 million in cost of medicines for all types of disease at the 134 government hospitals, she said.
"If the No. 1 killer such as cardiovascular disease is not controlled, the cost of medicines could exceed RM1 billion," she said.
Cardiovascular-related diseases were the cause of 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the deaths in government hospitals between 2000 and 2005 while heart failure was the cause of about 10 per cent of hospital admissions in the country, with 45 per cent of the patients getting readmitted to hospital at least once in 12 months.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Needle Exchange Program For Addicts To Be Expanded

KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 (Bernama) -- The Syringe Needle Exchange Program for drug addicts which was carried out on a pilot project in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor since February last year would be extended to Kuantan in Pahang, Kota Baharu in Kelantan and Alor Setar in Kedah this year.
Health Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Lee Kah Choon told the Dewan Rakyat today that 3,000 addicts were targeted for the program this year.
"Currently, the selection of a non-governmental body (NGO) as the program implementer is being carried out," he said when replying to Abdul Fatah Harun (PAS-Rantau Panjang).
He said the program aimed to eliminate or reduce the risk of infectious diseases such as the HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C being spread among addicts.
He said the pilot project carried out in Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Jelutong in Penang and Ngee Heng in Johor last year involved 1,380 addicts using syringe needles and was run by the Malaysian Aids Prevention Foundation.
"Thirty-seven percent of the program participants received clean needles once a month as replacement for the ones which have been used or contaminated," he said.
On the supply of free condoms to those with high risk of being infected with HIV/Aids which was raised by Abdul Fatah in a supplementary question, Lee said it should not be perceived as encouraging adultery because efforts at preventing HIV and Aids from spreading to the loved ones were more important.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Internal Security Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum said 22,811 drug addicts were detected throughout last year, a decline of 30.47 percent from 2005.
Of the 22,811 addicts recorded by the National Drugs Information System (Nadi), 10,381 were new addicts while 12,430 were repeat addicts, he said replying to Datuk Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

UM To Start Masters In Nursing Science In July

KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 (Bernama) -- In an effort to upgrade the standard of nursing in the country, the University of Malaya (UM) will begin a masters in nursing science programme with the first batch of 16 students to be enrolled in July.
UM Department of Allied Health Sciences' Nursing Science Unit head Prof Rohani Arshad said four of the students enrolling for the two-year programme were from overseas.
He said although the course was approved by the Higher Education Ministry in June last year, it had poor response from nursing science graduates initially due to poor publicity.
"The clinical course entails course work in the first year followed by practical and research work the following year under the supervision of seven lecturers," she told Bernama.
Rohani said UM which started a bachelor in nursing science course in 1992 would be the first local university to offer the masters in nursing science.
To date, UM has produced 379 nursing science graduates, of which 20 per cent were men.
Besides UM, the nursing science degree is offered at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Integrated Approach Rather Than Tax Hike To Deter Smokers

ALOR GAJAH, April 8 (Bernama) -- An integrated approach is needed to curb smoking habits among the public instead of merely imposing sales tax on cigarettes, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said although numerous studies had shown that when the price of cigarettes was raised significantly, there would be a drop in demand, it would also encourage cigarette smuggling.
"This (raising the price of cigarettes) is not a simple matter, in the past, the price of hard drinks was raised from RM3 to RM12, yet the people still consumed such drinks," he told reporters after visiting the Public Health Campaign organised by the Health Ministry at Machap Umboo, here tonight.
Dr Chua said this when asked to comment on the press report today that two consumer associations had urged the government to impose a higher sales tax so that a pack of 20 cigarettes would cost at least RM10.
The Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association (PPIM) and the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (FOMCA) believed that increasing the sales tax could prevent the multinational cigarette companies from reducing cigarette prices arbitrarily.
Dr Chua said it was estimated that 30 per cent of the cigarettes sold in Sabah were smuggled cigarettes.
The minister reminded smokers that there was no reason for them to smoke because each year, 10,000 people died of diseases related to cigarette smoking.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Businessmen using docs as proxies to open clinics

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The private healthcare business has become so commercialised that even businessmen are setting up clinics to reap profits.
It has come to a stage where they are also hiring unregistered doctors and mere medical assistants to man the clinics, which usually operate round-the-clock.
Concerned doctors and patients have alerted the Health Ministry, which has acted by conducting raids on clinics.
So far, one such clinic operator in Shah Alam is awaiting trial, while five cases – two each in Selangor and Johor and one in Negri Sembilan – are being investigated.
Many other clinics are under watch, including those in Sabah and Sarawak.
Health Ministry Medical Practice Division director Dr Mohd Khairi Yakub, who confirmed that more raids were being planned, said businessmen were using doctors as proxies to register clinics.
This contravened the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, which clearly stipulated that only qualified doctors can set up clinics.
“Some of these businessmen have even opened a chain of clinics,” he said in an interview.
Dr Mohd Khairi said the “proxy” doctors in clinics where non-medical practitioners operated should realise that they were also guilty, as their names were used to register the clinics.
“The unscrupulous businessmen might get off scot-free as the law is silent on their participation in the business,” he added.
Last month, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican warned that clinic operators would be held liable if they employed those unqualified to treat patients.
This followed a report that a medical assistant at a government clinic in Johor Baru had been moonlighting as a locum, earning about RM40 an hour in private clinics.
He was arrested after allegedly having molested a housewife.
Dr Ismail then reminded doctors to display their annual practising certificates at clinics so that patients would not doubt their status as qualified medical personnel registered with the Malaysian Medical Council.
However, this advice seems to have gone unheeded, as checks by The Star at clinics in Puchong and Petaling Jaya on Friday night revealed.
At the Puchong clinic, there were rows of patients waiting to be treated, all seemingly unaware of the concerns being expressed on the way some clinics were managed.
When our reporter identified herself and asked the clinic assistant for the doctor's medical practitioner’s certificate, the doctor appeared to say that the “owner of the clinic” was keeping it.
“But I can produce a copy of my certificate which is in my car,” he said.
Asked why he had not displayed the certificate in the clinic as required, the doctor said it was not his duty to do so as he had given copies of his documents to the “owner.”
“I do not display my certificate at this clinic or any of the other clinics (I work in) as I am paid on an hourly basis.
“It is impractical to do so but I carry a copy of the certificate wherever I go just in case enforcement officers turn up,” he explained.
The doctor said there was a lack of enforcement by the ministry, citing as an example a nearby clinic which had been run by a bogus doctor for years.
He said the matter came to light when a doctor who was ill went to the clinic for treatment.
He called on ministry enforcement officers to act without fear or favour to weed out the menace.
At the clinic in Petaling Jaya, the doctor in attendance, who claimed to be a locum, was dressed in jeans and slippers.
He was not very keen to take a blood pressure reading, saying “the young should not be worried.”
His actual “status” remains a mystery.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Emergency care system to be revamped

NST: The country’s emergency care system, particularly the ambulance services, will be revamped soon to make it more efficient.
Health Department director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the existing fleet of ambulances would be expanded and a more stringent procedure introduced in selecting drivers.
"We will train them on pre-hospital care to enable them to attend to patients on-site before sending them to hospitals.
"We are also looking at many other things which can be done to improve our emergency care system," he said after opening a conference on infectious diseases yesterday.
Other measures include the setting up of motorcycle squads and call response centres nationwide.
The three-day conference, which ends tomorrow, was jointly organised by the local branch of the Malaysian Medical Association and the state Health Department.
Dr Ismail’s comments come in the wake of allegations by a factory engineer against the Kepala Batas Hospital’s ambulance service.
Ghafur Mohd Ibrahim, 37, filed a RM1 million suit against the hospital accusing it of gross negligence in the death of his wife, whom he claimed had died due to a delay in getting treatment because the hospital’s ambulances had run out of petrol.
Dr Ismail, who refused to be dragged into the controversy, described the incident as an isolated case.
After a visit to Penang Hospital later, Dr Ismail said the retirement age of doctors working at public hospitals would be raised to 58 soon.
He said the move is aimed at retaining the services of experienced doctors.

Cigarette war has Chua fuming

Star: MALACCA: There is a price war among cigarette companies, and the Health Ministry is smoking with fury.
“The price war must stop. The companies have slashed their prices to unreasonable levels to attract smokers,” said minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He gave them two weeks to stop the “war” or said the ministry would intervene by setting a minimum price.
The price war has indirectly made cigarettes cheaper despite the annual duty increase, as manufacturers are willing to cut prices and offer attractive packaging to lure the young to boost sales.
“Smokers can buy a packet of 20 cigarettes for about RM3,” Dr Chua said when visiting the Machap Baru health clinic here yesterday.
He lamented that the price war had hampered the Government’s effort to discourage smoking.
Tobacco manufacturers and importers needed to register with the ministry so that the Government could easily monitor them, he said, adding that the ministry met tobacco company representatives here yesterday, including those from Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and JT International Bhd.
Dr Chua said the companies had asked that the graphic warning be reduced to less than 50% on cigarette packs, while the Government had suggested the image be set at 60% of the package.
He added that a final decision on the matter had yet to be made.

Meanwhile, the ministry will start a pilot project by mid-year to promote healthy eating habits among primary schoolchildren.
Four schools each from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Malacca and Putrajaya would be involved in the Healthy School Campaign project, reports LOH FOON FONG.
The Health and Education ministries had agreed that the school canteen was the best place to inculcate good eating habits.
Speaking to reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, Dr Chua said: “We will come up with dietary guidelines and recommend food that schools can prepare.”
He said food operators have agreed to use a logo depicting Healthy Choice for food with reduced fat, sugar and salt content and his ministry would carry out checks on set standards.
Regarding his recent suggestion on fast food advertisement, Dr Chua said the ministry would go ahead and ban such advertisements. The proposal would be ready in a week for the Cabinet.
“We decided to ban fast food advertisements, not the food. Sellers of nasi lemak or bak kut teh do not advertise.
“We don’t want our children to be influenced by bad eating habits,” he said.

Health officers to go undercover to nab medicine peddlers

Star: PENANG: Roadside “doctors” and traditional medicine outlet operators who sell prohibited medicines and slimming pills may soon run into the wrong customers.
Health officers will be going undercover to nab them.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said yesterday the ministry would step up its enforcement because it continued to receive complaints that medicines containing prohibited chemicals were still available on the streets.
“The sale of such medicines still exists because there is a market for medicines like slimming pills.
“The public must realise that there is no short cut to treating their ailments or even to lose weight,” he told reporters after opening the Conference on Infectious Diseases at the Bayview Beach Resort yesterday.
Dr Mohd Ismail said the ministry would also step up campaigns to create awareness among the public on the need to be wary of such prohibited medicines and control advertisements on traditional medicines.
“The Medicine Advertisement Board will strictly vet these advertisements,” he said.
Dr Mohd Ismail also said that the ministry was training more experts under the government’s Avian and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plans to ensure efficient and coordinated response in case of a pandemic.
“We now have only 20 experts in the health sector and other related government sectors like the police and Fire and Rescue Department trained to respond quickly to the threat of an infectious disease,” he added.
In his speech, Dr Mohd Ismail said dramatic changes in society, technology and the environment had resulted in many infectious diseases, once thought to be controlled, to re-emerge.
He urged general practitioners and those in the health industry to have their “tentacles” ready to identify any patterns of disease in the country.
The three-day conference was organised by the Malaysian Medical Association.

Gullible Public Fuelling Sale Of So-called Medicinal Products

PENANG, April 6 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry is unable to control so-called medicinal products sold on the street, promising beauty and health to their users, as long as members of the public are gullible enough to fall for such deception.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said unscrupulous parties would continue to market these products if people chose to ignore the ministry's advice.
"It's not easy to control such merchandise although we have time and again explained that these products are dangerous and may be lethal," he told reporters after opening a conference on contagious diseases organised by the Malaysian Medical Association's Penang branch here Friday.
He said the ministry had never endorsed the sale of such items as they had not been backed by any clinical evidence.
"For this reason, people who consume these medicines may come down with various illnesses that can kill them," he said.
Mohd Ismail said those wishing for an attractive face and a slim body would need to take care of their diet and exercise regularly as only a healthy lifestyle could ensure their well-being.
He said that people who were obese should seek treatment in hospitals as medical prescriptions were issued under strict supervision there.
Noting that the ministry would intensify public awareness campaign so that people were wary of dubious medicinal products, he said that all advertisements pertaining to medicine should carry the ministry's advertisement board permit.
Without such a permit, the media can't carry the advertisements concerned.