Monday, July 30, 2007

Non-communicable diseases affect 11.6m

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Seven out of 10 Malaysian adults suffer from at least one non-communicable disease like diabetes, hypertension or cancer.
Latest Health Ministry statistics show that 11.6 million of the 16 million adults nationwide are sick with an NCD.
And by all predictions, the numbers are going to get worse.
The ministry is predicting that the number of Malaysians with NCD is expected to increase to 13 million by 2015.
Health Ministry Deputy Disease Control Director (NCD) Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar blam-ed the situation on the lifestyle of Malaysians, which included higher use of tobacco, unhealthy diets and inactivity.
He said changes in the economic, social and demographic aspects of Malaysian life had led to a rise in NCD.
Dr Zainal said NCDs accounted for 51 per cent of all deaths in the country.
The ministry is at odds with the worsening situation given the fact that the remedy is quite simple, involving what some would call common sense.
"The majority of NCDs are actually preventable if people adhere to simple habits like a healthy lifestyle with good and balanced eating," he said.
Dr Zainal said the ministry was doing its best to educate Malaysians on how they could check the problem before it worsened and burdened the nation’s financial and human capital resources even further.
He suggested a diet that was low in fats and high in fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts.
"It is also important to limit the intake of sugar and salt and reduce weight."
Even a 4.5kg reduction in weight can have a significant effect on hypertension.
He said blood pressure can also be lowered with moderately intense physical activity such as 30 to 45 minutes of brisk walking.

Beware of suspect medicines

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Drug Control Authority has warned the public to stay away from 15 suspect medicinal products.
They are: Pil Tupai Jantan Asli, Jamu Ajaib, Maajun Petani Tongkat Ali, Kuku Bima Ginseng, Kuku Bima Ginseng & Kuda Laut, Crush Stone Super Kapsul, Obat Kuat Helbeh, Capsul Obat Kuat, Jamu Kuda, Tangkur Buaya, Tablet Kina, Oskadon — Obat Sakit Kepala, Paramex — Obat Sakit Kepala, Tian Ma Tu Chung Seven Leave Ginsengs and Mistura Xiao Chai Hu.
A DCA official has warned that some of them contain potent western medicinal drugs which are regulated under the Poisons Act. He said these drugs can cause harm if they are taken on a long term basis.
Labels on some of the products claim that they can be used to treat conditions such as joint pains, arthritis, headache, skin problems, impotence, premature ejaculation, poor sexual performance and low libido.
"Beware of the claims. They can be harmful as they are not approved by the DCA," the official warned.
The DCA has placed an alert on its website which states that these products have either not been registered, have labels without registration numbers or carry false registration numbers.

The official also warned the public against taking several herbal preparations that had been adulterated with western medicines.
These include: Bao Zhi Tang, Permanence, PMEN, Power, Zhong Mei Bao Jian, Qian Jin Nan Wee and Spanish Fly. Other products which have been adulterated are Enjoy-Male Energy, Blue Boy-Sen X Big, Euriko Ginko and Stallion.
He also warned against using the following products which have been adulterated with scheduled poisons: Air Ikan Haruan, Tongkat Ali Super Power, Maajun Kuat, Jamu Ajaib, Kian Pee Wan, Ceng Fui Yen, Saurean Fong Sep Lin, Seng Yong Wan, Pil Haruan, Kapsul Tongkat Ali Asli, Pil Power Sendi, Pil Resdung, Mixagrip, Komix, Konidin, Antimo, Mextril, Untraflu and Neozep Forte.

Dose of advice on fakes from Health Dept

Star: MALACCA: Consumers still can't tell the difference between genuine and fake medicine, state Health Department (Pharmacy) deputy director Dr Salmah Bahri said yesterday.
She said this was evident from the seizure of over RM1mil worth of unlicensed medicine in the state from January to June, despite the department having only six staff in its pharmaceutical enforcement division to conduct investigation and raids.
“We also had more reports of consumers experiencing adverse effects after they consumed fake medicines,” she said.
Dr Salmah urged consumers to look for the registration number and Mediatag hologram sticker on the label of medicine packaging before using it.
This includes all forms of beauty and slimming products, she added.
“Consumers must understand that there is no such thing as a 100% safe medicine.
“They must also know their rights to know the full description of the medicine before using,” Dr Salmah said to about 100 participants at the state-level You and Your Medicine seminar at a hotel here yesterday.

Stricter tests on imports from China for contamination

Star: PETALING JAYA: More stringent checks are being conducted on made-in-China food products imported here following the alarming number of such items being found contaminated with health risk agents globally.
The Health Ministry’s Food Quality and Safety Division has stepped up surveillance and is carrying out more extensive tests on all new Chinese products that require approvals to be imported here.
“More stringent tests are being conducted to ensure the quality and safety of these products for local consumption,” division director Dr Abdul Rahim Mohamad said.
He said random tests were also being carried out on Chinese products that had already been granted permission to be imported here to ensure the quality and safety standards had not deteriorated.
“More such tests had been done in the past months as the number of tainted and contaminated food items from China reported globally has escalated,” he said.
Malaysia imported about RM58bil worth of food products from China last year. Malaysia is the third largest buyer of China-made products.
Dr Abdul Rahim said the division has also ordered all its state offices, particularly in Sabah, to check the White Rabbit brand milk candy after reports in the Philippines that samples were tainted with formaldehyde, a preservative and embalming chemical that can cause cancer.
However, AP reported that China has resumed shipments of candy to the Philippines after tests by the Chinese government showed the chemical was not present in the product.
According to Shanghai-based candy manufacturer Guan Shen Yuan Company, distributors in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong had performed their own tests and found the confection to be formaldehyde-free.
The worldwide scares have involved poisonous pet food ingredients, toxic fish, industrial chemicals and dye found in biscuits, candies, pickles, seafood, meat and toothpaste.
In the past months, Hong Kong and Singapore health authorities had warned their residents about the danger of Chinese products.
Singapore Agri-Food and Veterinary Services (AVS) warned Singaporeans against buying salted duck and century eggs from China, which were said to be contaminated with dangerous cancer-causing Sudan dyes.
AVS also suspended the importation of canned fried dace with salted black beans and frozen prepared eel from China. The products were found to contain Malachite green, a type of chemical used as a dye.
Tests by the Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety had also found that some Chinese seafood products including Bombay-duck (a type of fish), were found with cancer-causing agents nitrofurans and formaldehyde.

Chua: No ban on China goods

Star: KLUANG: Malaysia will not ban the import of food supplements, cosmetics and medicine from China although Indonesia has done so.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the import of drugs and food supplements are controlled rigidly by his ministry through either the food quality division or the pharmaceutical division.
“So we will not follow blindly what another country does. Indonesia can do what they want, we have our own guidelines,” said Dr Chua.
He said if the amount of herbal product in any food did not exceed 20%, it was considered an ordinary food product and need not be registered with the ministry.
If it contains more than 20% of herbal products, then it is regarded as a food supplement and has to be registered with the food quality division or the pharmaceutical division.
As for drugs, they must all get approval from the ministry through the pharmaceutical division before they can be in the market, he said.
Indonesia banned the import of food supplements, cosmetics and medicine from China early this month, following findings that the medicines contained chemical substances while the cosmetics were mixed with mercury and rhodamin and its food products were mixed with formalin, all of which were dangerous to health.

Inadequate Supply Of Human Tissues For Treatment

KOTA BAHARU, July 29 (Bernama) -- The country is facing a shortage of human tissues for medical treatment due to the public's lukewarm response to organ donation.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said the people should be aware of the importance of organ donation for medical purposes.
"Organ donation should adhere to the guidelines and fatwa (religious ruling) so that it would not be against the law, syarak (Islamic law) and other religions," he said at the National Tissue Bank's 15th anniversary celebrations here today.
His speech was read out by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Health Campus director Datuk Dr Mafauzy Mohamed.
The National Tissue Bank was set up at the campus in Kubang Kerian with the cooperation of the Malaysia Nuclear Agency and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1994.
The project was introduced in 1990 with aid from IAEA and is manned by personnel from the Science Technology and Environment Ministry.
Mustapa said the tissue bank supplied various types of tissue grafts and replacement tissues for patients suffering bone problems, scalding and cornea ulcer.
He said so far more than 10,000 patients had benefited from tissue grafts supplied by the tissue bank at 38 hospitals in the country.
Since its formation, the tissue bank had received the Quality Management System MS ISO 9001:2000 certification in 2005.
Monitored by the IAEA, the tissue bank is carrying out research to improve its services to the people including identifying artificial organs.
"The country is facing inadequate supply of human tissues, especially bones tissues, as human tissue donation is still low," he said.
He said USM's research work had created biomaterial clusters which involved several branches of science to pioneer biomaterial science and tissue engineering.
At the function, students who won essay writing and poster competitions in conjunction with the celebrations, received commendation letters and cash awards.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Two government hospitals to adopt ‘full-paying patient’ concept

Star: MUAR: The Putrajaya Hospital and the Selayang Hospital in Selangor will be the first public hospitals in the country to adopt the “full-paying patient” concept.
The service provides patients with the option of being treated by specialists of their choice in an executive or first-class facility and be charged accordingly.
There had been a significant number of well-to-do patients seeking treatment from government specialists who paid the minimal rate and enjoyed the subsidised treatments.
The full-paying patient scheme is one way of addressing this inadequacy and, in addition, will help provide better incentives and remuneration for specialists and encourage them to continue working in government hospitals.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the move would help to curb medical specialists from government hospitals from joining the private sector.
He said the two hospitals would begin offering the concept from Aug 1.
Speaking to reporters here, Dr Chua said the move was also aimed at attracting specialists who had left government hospitals to serve in the private sector.
“We are losing about 50% or about 100 of our specialist doctors every year, who resign to join the private hospitals.
“We hope this approach will enable the hospitals to allocate some additional incentives for the specialist doctors,” he said after visiting drainage and road projects in Bentayan here on Thursday.
Dr Chua said the ministry picked the two hospitals as they have excellent facilities to treat liver related illnesses, hand surgery, breast cancer and endocrine diseases, among others.
He said many who could afford it sought treatment at these hospitals, but without the full-paying patient concept, they only paid the minimal rate and enjoyed subsidised treatment.
Dr Chua said it was unfair as the government subsidy was meant for patients who could not afford to pay the full amount for the treatment of such illnesses.
He said the cost would be similar to those charged by the private hospitals and consistent with schedules outlined by the Malaysian Medical Association, but with some discount.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sick and tired of work? Buy a medical chit for RM17

NST: JOHOR BARU: Were you absent for work? Do you need a medical chit to convince your employer that you were not playing truant?
Not to worry. For a mere RM17, a local syndicate can supply you with a "bona fide" medical chit complete with a stamp from a government hospital.
It is learnt that the syndicate has been operating for six months supplying customers — mostly Malaysians working in Singapore — with the chits.
The stamps on the undated chits carry the names of different doctors, while fields such as name, address and place of employment are left blank.
One of their customers, who wanted to be identified only as Paul, said as a precaution, the syndicate would record the buyer’s details, such as the registration number of the car and the serial number on the chit beforehand.
"From what I know, they don’t give the chits to anyone they do not know."
Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) director Dr Roshaimi Merican said she had not received any reports of chits from government hospitals being sold in the open.
There are nine government-run hospitals in Johor, two of which — HSA and Sultan Ismail Specialist Hospital — are in Johor Baru.
"We urge members of the public to inform us of this," said Dr Roshaimi.

Doctors, nurses need to help smokers quit habit

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Although smoking is hazardous to health, doctors, nurses and others in the health industry are doing very little to help smokers to quit.
The Malaysian Medical Association’s Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Committee chairman Prof Dr Lekhraj Rampal said yesterday that health professionals could play a very important role in discouraging smoking.
"In community and clinical settings, as health professionals you are the most knowledgeable in health matters and you are expected to act on the basis of this knowledge. Unfortunately, it is not being done," he told the New Straits Times.
Dr Rampal said health professionals should also be role models for the population but there were many who were smokers themselves.
The NST had on June 1 highlighted that Malaysians were spending RM15 million daily on the "poison stick".
Despite an aggressive approach by the government in the "Tak Nak" campaign, Malaysians continue to smoke some 30 million sticks of cigarettes a day. This adds up to a staggering RM6 billion going up in smoke every year.
A study by ASH revealed that 50 per cent of the more than 3.5 million smokers nationwide smoked nearly 10 sticks a day.
If the remaining 50 per cent smoked five cigarettes a day, this would amount to a total of nearly 11 million sticks a day. ASH is concerned that many of the smokers are between 15 and 25 years old.
"Tobacco is hazardous to health. There are about 4,000 known chemicals in tobacco smoke, with more than 50 of them likely to cause cancer," warned Dr Rampal.
He said health professionals needed to address tobacco dependence as part of their standard of care practice.
"Questions about tobacco use should be included when monitoring vital signs and at every encounter with a patient," he said, adding that doctors should ask about tobacco use, advise users to quit, assess their willingness to quit, help them to quit and arrange follow-ups.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Puzzled over fewer tests

Star: KOTA KINABALU: State-owned Warisan Harta Sdn Bhd, which took over the foreign workers' health screening from Fomema on Jan 1, is puzzled over the drop in the number of workers being tested.
Chairman Datuk Dr Patawari Patawe said it could be due to the existing ruling that workers need not undergo medical examination for renewal of their work pass after serving in the state for four years.
“I am puzzled by the decline. The procedures and infrastructure offered by Warisan Harta are similar to that of Fomema,” he said yesterday.
Asked if the decline could be due to the quality of Warisan Harta's services, he said the quality should not be lower than that offered by Fomema.
He said the state should investigate the matter as about 7% of foreigners screened in Sabah were found to be unfit.

1.5 million blood donors sought

Star: SUBANG JAYA: The Health Ministry has targeted 1.5 million donors to provide a constant blood supply throughout the year, said Health parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon yesterday.
Currently, the National Blood Bank collects 450,000 units of blood a year from 1.8% (about half a million) of the population, with some people donating several times a year, he said during a press conference to announce the National Association of Malaysian Life Insurance and Financial Advisors’ donation campaign on Saturday.
“We hope with the help of NGOs, we’ll be able to achieve the 1.5 million and 100% volunteer donors.”
The number of blood units donated has increased from 200,000 in the 1990s to the current number of units because NGOs have stepped forward to promote and organise blood donation drives, he said.
He said 99% of blood donors were volunteer donors, and that less than 1% of the blood donated was tainted.
The Health Ministry has 110 blood banks throughout the country.

Leaky Ceiling Again At Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital

SUNGAI PETANI, July 23 (Bernama) -- The ceiling of the Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital (HSAH) cafeteria leaked again today, believed to be the fifth incident since the hospital started operations in December last year.
Clogged sewage pipes which run above the cafeteria is blamed for the leak.
HSAH director Dr Hariff Fadzilah Che Hashim said the pipes were clogged with sanitary pads and disposable napkins by inconsiderate people.
"We regret this irresponsible attitude because it is creating problems and causing inconvenience to others. The public should use the rubbish bins to throw away the disposable items," he told reporters here.
He said the cafeteria had to be closed temporarily to enable repair work to be carried out.
The hospital, built at a cost of RM468 million, is still under maintenance by the contractors, TH Universal Builders Sdn Bhd and Bina Darul Aman Berhad (THUB-BDB JV) until August next year.
Early this month, the cafeteria was closed for several hours due to leaking pipes which subsequently flooded the floor.
Similar incidents were reported twice in May. The first was on May 26 when the ceiling panels at the men's ward at the hospital collapsed and the following day, eight ceiling panels collapsed at the children's nursery and at the Intensive Care Unit.

Automation Of Daily Chores Contribute To Obesity Among Women

KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 (Bernama) -- The switch from the physical way of doing household chores to automation has been cited as factors that contribute to obesity among women, said Parliamentary Secretary to the Health Ministry Datuk Lee Kah Choon.
"At home, most of the work handled by women like washing is done by machines while at the office men usually take the lift rather than the stairs although it is only for one floor," he said when replying to a question from Senator Datuk Soon Tian Szu in the Dewan Negara here Tuesday.
Soon wanted to know reasons for overweight and obesity among Malaysians where some one milion or 18.8 percent of the 1.85 million saddled with the problem are women.
Lee said the intake of an imbalance diet high in fat and sugar content just add to the problem.
"The intake of food far outweighs the energy needed for daily activities. If left unchecked, this will lead to weight gain," he added.
Statistics showed that women over 40 years-old have weight problems because office work and family commitments left them with little or no time at all for exercises.
Lee said a study on the food intake by adults in 2003 found that overweight Malaysians had increased by 26.71 percent and that the obesity rate had increased by 12.15 percent or by three fold.
The healthy lifestyle campaign by the ministry is among steps taken by the government to overcome overweight and obesity among Malaysians.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Doubts over health screening of foreigners

NST: KOTA KINABALU: Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said yesterday there were discrepancies in the health screening of foreign workers in Sabah.
His suspicion was based on statistics which showed there were 50 per cent fewer workers getting health check-ups this year compared with last year.
"Based on our monitoring, there were 52,000 foreign workers screened by Fomema from January to April last year," he said. During the same period this year, only 26,000 were screened.
"Why was there such a drastic reduction, especially since policies and procedures for foreign workers have not changed at all?"
Dr Chua said they were worried about the huge discrepancy as it could mean that there were recruitment agencies bringing in foreigners without undergoing the stipulated health checks.
"This is dangerous because from our experience, about 6.8 per cent of foreign workers are deemed unfit to work, sometimes carrying infectious diseases like Hepatitis B.
"This could easily spread and endanger the people."
Speaking at the annual state MCA assembly here, he said: "I'm not playing the blame game. I just know that there are leakages somewhere, but I do not know where."

More people going for traditional medicines

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: While the country may be marching towards developed status by 2020, Malaysians, it seems, will continue to opt for the old and tested ways when it comes to their health.
They are expected to spend more than RM1 billion on traditional and complementary medicines in 2020.
Director-general of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said this was based on the trend which showed that consumer expenditure for traditional and complementary medicines had risen from RM272 million in 2000 to almost RM400 million now.
"Malaysians, just as in many other countries, are turning to traditional and complementary medicines and the industry is growing fast," he told the New Straits Times.
Dr Ismail said the government was aware of the importance of the industry and would ensure that all plans to integrate traditional and complementary medicines would be carried out carefully.
This includes giving due consideration to the safety and medico-legal aspects, religious sensitivities and local culture.
Dr Ismail said the move to integrate traditional and complementary medicines into the Malaysian healthcare system was timely as it would result in a more holistic approach.
However, he stressed that traditional and complementary medicines needed to be introduced in a regulated way.
In Malaysia, traditional and complementary medicines have been divided into five groups with the formation of five practitioner bodies — Malay, Chinese, Indian, Complementary and Homeopathy.
More than 7,000 traditional and complementary medicine practitioners were registered with their respective bodies last year.
"Malaysia’s approach is now towards integrated medicine where people can benefit from both systems."
Integrated medicine, he said, focused on health and healing, rather than disease and treatment.
Following the cabinet’s approval last year for integrated hospitals to be set up, the pilot project is set to kick off in October this year at the Kepala Batas Hospital in Penang.
This will be followed by the Putrajaya Hospital and Sultan Ismail Hospital in Pandan in Johor in December.
Herbal preparation, acupuncture and traditional massage are the three elements which would be introduced in the hospitals conducting the pilot projects.

Medical colleges’ high fees surprise MMA

Star: THE Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) is surprised that private colleges are charging their medical students exorbitant fees, when they are using facilities at government hospitals.
According to the Malaysia Nanban report, the MMA said specialists from the public hospitals are furthermore engaged at these colleges on a part-time basis and paid a nominal fee.
The MMA claimed the charges at the nine colleges providing medical programmes are be-tween RM200,000 to RM310,000 per student for a five-year course.
It added that the eight government hospitals that are allowing the use of their medical training facilities are only collecting between RM15,000 and RM20,000 from each college.
The association hopes to meet the Education and Health ministries soon to discuss the issue and fix a ceiling fee for those pursuing medicine in the country's private colleges.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Two healthier fats should be included in diet

NST: GENERALLY, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids tend to lower people’s risk of heart diseases.
Called the healthier fats, these two fats should be included in our diet.
Many common vegetable oils (like soy bean, corn and sunflower), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, smelt, herring and trout), fish oils, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, soybeans and some nuts (for example, walnuts) contain high proportions of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Olive oil, canola oil, high oleic sunflower oil, avocados and nuts like cashews, pecans, almonds and peanuts, contain high proportions of monounsaturated fatty acids.
Saturated and trans-fatty acids are the "unhealthy fats" that raise people’s risk of heart diseases.
Saturated fat has traditionally been known as "the bad fat" because it raises the blood levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), although it also ups the blood levels of good cholesterol (HDL) at the same time.
It is mostly found in coconut, palm and palm kernel oils, animal fats (for example, pork, lamb and beef), butter, cheese and other dairy products.
But trans fat has been shown to be worse than saturated fat; it raises LDL and lowers HDL simultaneously.
Lim Ai Leng, the chief dietician of a private hospital in Kuala Lumpur, described trans fat as "about 10 times worse than saturated fat as a risk factor of cardiovascular disease".
Dr A.H. Lim, a general health practitioner in the Klang Valley, said trans fat quickened the rate of ageing and increased the risk of birth defects in newborn babies.
"Malaysians are ignorant of its dangers because they don’t pay attention to these things."
Most trans fat comes from margarine (especially hard margarine), bakery products that are made with shortening, and margarine or oils containing partially hydrogenated oils and fats.
These include local and imported cookies, crackers, instant noodles, doughnuts, cakes, pastries, muffins, croissants and potato chips.
The Health Canada website said up to 45 per cent of the fat content in these products might be trans-fatty acids.
Ai Leng said food which was labelled "low in trans fat" should not contain more than 1.5g per 100g (solids) or more than 0.75g per 100ml (liquids). And food labelled as "free of trans fat" should not contain more than 0.1g per 100g (solids) or not more than 0.1g per 100ml (liquids).

It’s bad, you should know

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Trans fat and hydrogenation are bad words in nutrition and the Health Ministry wants you to be aware of it.
The ministry is reviewing the need to make it mandatory for trans fat, which is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, to be listed in the nutrition label of all foods.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the ministry would also increase efforts to educate the public about trans fat and its dangers.
Trans fat is the ultimate "bad fat" as it is said to increase the bad cholesterol in the body while simultaneously lowering good cholesterol.
It is also linked to certain forms of cancer and diabetes.
Dr Ismail said Canada, Denmark, India and the United States had mandated the listing of trans fat.
New York’s Board of Health voted unanimously last December to ban these artery-clogging artificial trans fat in all restaurants in the city. The restaurants have until July next year to eliminate trans fat in their food.
Dr Ismail said: "Most Malaysians use palm oil (in their cooking) and it doesn’t have this (trans fat) problem.
"But because of the possibility of people using imported products and other types of oils, the ministry will review the need for mandatory labelling of trans fat in foods."
He said this would be carried out after consultation with food producers and nutritionists.
Fats and oils are made mostly of four types of fatty acids: Polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated, and trans fat.
Trans fat is found naturally in small amounts (dairy products, beef and lamb).
Small amounts of trans fat are also formed during the refining of liquid vegetable oils like canola and soy bean oil.
But mostly, artificial trans fat is created when manufacturers use a process called "hydrogenation".
This process turns liquid oil into a semi-solid form when hydrogen is added to the oil under intense heat to produce products like shortening or margarine.
Hydrogenation is used to stabilise the flavour, as well as increase the palatability and shelf life of food.
The ministry, said Dr Ismail, was concerned about fast food, margarine and other hydrogenated oil-based products.
Malaysia’s food regulation does not require mandatory labelling of trans fat or any of the three fatty acids for all foods.
However, where a food label highlights any of the four fatty acid components, it will have to list all of them.
So, should Malaysians avoid food that has trans fat?
"I think if you consume in the defined allowable amount, you need not worry about it," said Dr Ismail.
He said some studies showed that trans fat was not dangerous if the amount consumed was less than one per cent of a person’s total daily calorie intake.
If you consume 2,600 Kcal a day, it is permissible to take 2.6gm of trans fat.

Cancer vaccine trials for 230

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Some 230 advanced-stage lung cancer patients in the country will take part in clinical trials for a therapeutic cancer vaccine.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the vaccine, Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF), was the first of its kind in the world and produced here with the cooperation between Malaysia and Cuba.
“The second and third phases of the clinical trials would be conducted on 230 patients who volunteered to undertake the trials at 14 hospitals nationwide.
“They have been told they have about six months to live,” he told a press conference.
Dr Latiff said the trials would be conducted by a local biotechnology company and Cuban researchers.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Leprosy centre to become heritage, tourist attraction

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Part of the Sungai Buloh Leprosy Centre may be made a heritage site and tourism attraction under a Health Ministry’s proposal to redevelop the area under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said it was decided to preserve some parts of the centre because of its historical significance.
"We planned to turn part of the centre’s buildings into a heritage site due to its historical significance and the building’s unique structure.
"It can also be a tourist attraction," he said after launching Tung Shin Hospital’s traditional medicine building yesterday.
He said at one time the lepers produced their own currency because the public was afraid to mix with them.
"Some of them still have the currency in mint condition," he added.
The leprosy centre opened in 1930 and was once the Commonwealth’s largest and most modern facility for the research and treatment of the disease.
In the early days, there were up to 3,000 patients but now, only 340 people who are cured of the disease remained, eking out a living by selling plants and flowers.
Many of them choose to stay at the centre due to the stigma attached to the disease.
Many have also lost contact with their families.
Dr Chua said there were no plans to close down the centre, assuring the remaining former leprosy patients that they could stay on.
Besides the centre, the 200ha site houses the Sungai Buloh Hospital.
Squatters have also moved in and nurseries are occupying the land illegally.
The redevelopment will also see the setting up of an Infectious Disease Control Centre as well as Universiti Teknologi Mara’s administrative and service centre.
Dr Chua said the cabinet had agreed on Wednesday for a committee headed by the ministry’s secretary-general to study the viability of turning the centre into a heritage site.
The committee will consist representatives from the Higher Education, Tourism, Housing and Local Government and Culture, Arts and Heritage ministries.
"It will ensure the redevelopment will be carried out in an orderly fashion and the land use will be optimised," he said.

Stop chasing ISO certification, hospitals told

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The trend of government hospitals chasing ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) certification has incurred the ire of Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He was upset that the hospitals appeared to be more interested in obtaining the certification than in caring for their patients and had directed them to stop doing so.
"Lately, I’ve received numerous complaints from doctors who were so bogged down with paperwork related to the ISO certification that their main duties of caring for patients were being neglected," he said after launching Tung Shin Hospital’s traditional medicine building.
To date, 46 per cent of the 134 government hospitals had obtained ISO certification.
He said some hospitals might have ISO certification, but their quality of care was still below par.
He said the certification was more suitable for factories and establishments dealing with administrative and management work.
"ISO is more towards administrative work whereas hospitals are more clinically-based. Hospitals should also give priority to patients’ safety and quality of care," he said.
He directed hospitals that wanted to set a benchmark for their quality of service to opt for the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation, an internationally recognised body dedicated to improving the quality and safety of healthcare services, instead of chasing ISO certification.
No Malaysian hospital has applied for JCI, although it is a norm for neighbouring countries like Singapore and Thailand.
Dr Chua said the hospitals could also obtain accreditation from the Malaysian Society of Quality of Health. Currently, 56 government hospitals are accredited by MSQH.
"If we want Malaysia to build up the health-tourism sector, hospitals must work towards getting JCI accreditation as it is a quality benchmark and will give confidence to foreign patients."
On another matter, Dr Chua criticised the Australian government for issuing a travel advisory on dengue fever in the Klang Valley.
"They are not well-acquainted with conditions in countries like Malaysia, where dengue is endemic.
"Their warning is not based on facts and knowledge of the situation here."
He said Singapore was also badly hit by dengue and questioned why no travel advisory warning was issued against the republic.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Medical students can’t cope even with loans

NST: NILAI: Students pursuing medical degrees at private institutions of higher learning (IPTS) are finding it difficult to make ends meet.
This is despite an increase in the maximum loan amount under the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN).
"A lot of these students are struggling to cope financially even with the increase in the loan amount," Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat said.
He said it was, therefore, important for IPTS to come up with more financial schemes.
"IPTS could offer more scholarships and loans to help."
In March, the Higher Education Ministry had announced an increase in the maximum loan amount for PTPTN loans for students pursuing the Bachelor of Medical Science at private institutions. The maximum loan amount rose from RM20,000 per year to RM30,000 per year.
Ong was speaking after the scholarship presentation ceremony for students of INTI International University College (INTI-UC) at its campus here yesterday.
Present were INTI-UC executive chairman Tan Yew Sing and president and vice-chancellor Prof Dr Lee Fah Onn. Scholarships worth RM2.5 million were awarded to 450 INTI-UC students.
Ong said more IPTS had expressed interest in joining the Higher Opportunities for Private Education (HOPE) programme.
The HOPE programme is an initiative to help students who failed to gain entry into public universities find alternative paths to gain a tertiary education.

Phase out medical tools that use mercury, says CAP

Star: PENANG: Medical instruments using mercury should be phased out as the risks posed are “very serious,” according to the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP).
Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris said CAP would submit a paper to the Health Ministry to consider phasing out products using mercury such as thermometers, laboratory chemicals, blood pressure monitors and even dental fillings in the next three years.
“The Government needs to step in to encourage usage of mercury-free alternatives,” he said after the opening of the Conference on Alternatives to Mercury in Healthcare.
State Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman P.K. Subbaiyah opened the one-day conference attended by about 150 representatives from the Government, medical and dental associations, hospitals, medical waste managers and non-governmental organisations as well as academicians.
Mohamed Idris said that in Malaysia a dental amalgam that has about 50% mercury was identified as an intentionally used mercury-containing product.
“Exposure to mercury vapour could occur during placement and removal of the mercury-containing dental amalgams.
“Mercury-free alternatives to amalgam are making inroads in reducing the risk of mercury contamination in patients and Malaysia should move towards these alternatives,” he said.
Subbaiyah said that according to the World Health Organisation, healthcare institutions were one of the major sources of mercury releases into the atmosphere.
“When medical products containing mercury are improperly disposed of or incinerated, the highly toxic mercury is released into the environment,” he said.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cancer, skin diseases in workplace on the rise

NST: PUTRAJAYA: The number of work-related diseases, including cancer, skin ailments and respiratory illnesses, has increased.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn said this may be because there was less emphasis placed on occupational diseases as compared with workplace accidents.
"The focus in occupational safety and health is usually on preventing accidents at the workplace and less on occupational diseases," Fong said after launching the Convention on Occupational Safety and Health here yesterday.
He said public awareness about occupational diseases was low compared with knowledge of workplace accidents.
Socso records an average of 200 occupational diseases annually. In 2005, 194 cases were reported, an increase over the 185 cases in 2004.
In the public sector, 110 civil servants reported work-related illnesses between January to June to the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), compared with nine cases last year.
A check at Socso’s website,, show-ed that diseases reported in 2004 included hearing impairment caused by noise (48 cases), cancer caused by dust from wood (15), miners’ nystagmus (14) and skin diseases caused by physical, chemical or biological agents (10).
There were also 33 cases of unnamed diseases caused by physical agents.
Fong said Socso had guidelines on handling occupational diseases but more awareness about prevention was needed.
Socso pays benefits for occupational diseases listed under the Employees’ Social Security Act 1969.
Employers who register their workers and contribute on their behalf to Socso cannot be sued so long as the disease is covered by Socso.
For civil servants, claims related to diseases are sent to the Finance Ministry with supporting documents from DOSH which investigates their claims.
On industrial accidents, Fong said Malaysia had reduced the number from 10 accidents per 1,000 workers in 1997 to five per 1,000 last year. "We are way behind advanced countries, which have achieved two or three accidents per 1,000 workers."

A hub for medical info

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is well on its way to becoming the global information hub on integrated medicine.
This follows the launching yesterday of GlobinMed, a web-based resource which profiles various aspects of traditional and complementary medicine (T/CM).
It offers validated, up-to-date and comprehensive information on a range of areas associated with integrated medicine.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the government wanted to use smart and strategic partnerships with other nations, international organisations and non-governmental organisations in becoming a hub.
"Our mission is to establish an information hub on integrated medicine for the world throughout Malaysia," he told reporters after the launching ceremony at the Putra World Trade Centre.
He had, earlier, also opened the three-day Sixth International Conference on Traditional and Complimentary Medicine and the Third International Congress on Traditional Medicine and Materia Medica.
GlobinMed objectives are to:
• develop a state-of-the art information resource on T/CM and integrated medicine, and
• promote the generation and dissemination of T/CM information that is validated, up-to-date, widely available and evidence-based to global consumers.
Dr Chua said Malaysia welcomed strategic partners to fulfil the vision of ensuring accurate and reliable information on integrated medicine.
"GlobinMed is a wholesome global electronic information resource on T/CM, covering policy, practice, research, trade, education, safety, conservation and intellectual property rights," he said.
This meant that GlobinMed catered to all interests.
GlobinMed, Dr Chua said, was set up in line with the significant increase in the role of T/CM in contributing to human health.
He said the widespread use of T/CM among Malaysians was also a challenge for the ministry.
"The ministry has to ensure that the more than 17,000 products used by 7,154 registered T/CM practitioners are safe, effective and have quality.
"The ministry has also seized unregistered T/CM products worth millions over the past few years, containing metals, steroids and banned medicines.
"Malaysia is also seeing a paradigm shift in healthcare as with the rest of the world, as consumers are showing great interest in T/CM," he added.
It was in this respect that the cabinet had approved the setting up of integrated hospitals which used both modern and traditional medicine, he said.
He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would launch the first integrated hospital in Kepala Batas in September.
Three oncologists will be arriving from the Chinese Medicine Guang’anmen Hospital, Beijing, to work on attachment at the hospital.
Two more hospitals identified under the project are Putrajaya Hospital and Hospital Pandan in Johor.

Integrate Traditional And Modern Medicine In Healthcare, Says PM

KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the time has come for traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) to be optimally integrated into the Malaysian healthcare system.
This was necessary to achieve a holistic approach towards enhancing the health and quality of life of the people, the prime minister said.
He said the government had taken several steps towards the integration, including the plan to introduce a T&CM bill which would, among others, require the registration of all its practitioners.
"The T&CM bill is expected to be passed in 2008," he said at the opening of the 6th International Conference on Traditional and Complementary Medicine (Intracom) and 3rd International Congress on Traditional Medicine & Materia Medica (ICTMMM) here.
His speech was delivered by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
Abdullah said that as a pilot project, the government had approved the formation of integrated hospitals which would see the introduction of herbal preparation, acupuncture and traditional massage in three selected hospitals, namely Kepala Batas Hospital in Penang, Pandan Hospital in Johor and Putrajaya Hospital.
The prime minister called on local researchers to take advantage of Malaysia's rich biodiversity to find new herbal formulations.
"Twenty-five per cent of modern medicines are made from plants first used traditionally. Malaysia, endowed with a rich tropical biodiversity, has the potential to be an important source of raw materials for new herbal formulations and novel chemical entities," he added.
However, he said, the pursuit of this natural wealth should be done in a way that would not cause a threat to the biodiversity
"Plants of proven medicinal value must be cultivated and conserved to ensure their sustainable use," said Abdullah.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Plastic makers insist food and water containers safe for reuse

Star: PETALING JAYA: Just last week, the Health Ministry advised Malaysians not to reuse plastic food and water containers. Yesterday, the Malaysian Plastics Forum (MPF) insisted that packaging and containers made from plastic and polystyrene are safe to use or for reuse.
Its president Lim Kok Boon said that this was because the raw ingredients used to make the finished products complied with international standards such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
He said that the resin products were approved substances for the manufacturing of food containers and packaging material.
He said it was used in making items such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, adding that hygienic practices applied to the products, regardless of whether they were made of plastic, steel or glass.
The MPF is made up of the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association, the Malaysian Petrochemicals Association and the Plastics Resins Producers Group.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek had advised consumers last week not to reuse plastic food and water containers because their quality was “questionable” and Malaysians were at risk of being exposed to chemicals that might have seeped into the food or liquid.
Dr Chua’s statement was based on a study that the ministry had commissioned Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine to carry out.
The study showed that in 45 of the 47 containers examined, at least one chemical was detected. However, the level of the leachate detected was low and the scope was to analyse chemicals in plastic and polystyrene food containers.
Lim said that based on scientific evidence, the FDA had determined that PET was safe for use as beverage bottles and other food packaging applications – for single and repeated use.
When asked how often the resin product manufacturers sent samples for testing to the FDA, Lim conceded that he did not know but stressed that because they were large multinational corporations, they would adhere to the necessary standards.
He said members could on a voluntary basis send their finished products for testing at Sirim Bhd.
In the case of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic bags used for packing hot and cold beverages, Lim said the FDA had allowed their use based on data from years of research and testing, and they complied with the Malaysian Food Act 1983 and Malaysian Food Regulations 1985.
He said expandable polystyrene containers had excellent thermal insulating abilities.
“They keep hot food hot and cold food cold, while you hold the package in comfort,” he said, adding that an additional layer of material was not needed to separate the food and container as it was designed to be safe for use.

Liver tonics not sure guard against liver diseases

Star: PETALING JAYA: Those who take liver tonics regularly should not think it is a passport to continue living unhealthily, says Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
“They must be very sure of what they are doing. If they consume excessive alcohol, no amount of preventive agents is going to prevent the liver from becoming cirrhotic or diseased,” he said in an interview with The Star.
“It does not give you the passport to go on a spree and practice an unhealthy lifestyle.”
Dr Ismail, who is also Malaysian Liver Foundation (MLF) president, emphasised that having a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise to prevent obesity, was still important in preventing liver disease that can cause fatty liver.
Such tonics are supposed to protect the liver by ridding the body of toxins.
He added that there was also an interest in herbal therapy to produce similar agents but cautioned the public to “not get carried away with every herb in town”.
The MLF estimates that 2.5 million Malaysians have hepatitis and most are unaware that they have the disease until they are informed too late that they are suffering from complications.
About 25% of individuals are at risk of serious infections and eventual death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
In 67 cases of hepatocellular cancer at Selayang Hospital between 2003 and 2004, it was found that 63% was due to chronic Hepatitis B infection and 15% because of chronic Hepatitis C infection.
Only 8.9% of the cases were suitable for curative treatment, which is liver resection.
Dr Ismail also reminded the public that vaccinations against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B were disease-specific, as there were instances of patients thinking that one type of vaccine covered both strains of the virus.
He added that the younger generation was at risk of contracting Hepatitis A if they had not been vaccinated because they did not have the antibodies.
“There is a danger that you will get more serious diseases if you get it when you are older compared to when you are younger,” he said.
“Get vaccination against Hepatitis A and B. That is the best thing to do.”
There is no vaccination against Hepatitis C.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Expert to take up UKM job

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s brain gain initiative has received a boost with the appointment of a world authority in keyhole surgery, paediatric surgeon Prof Dr Tan Hock Lim, to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
Prof Tan, who was born in Malaysia but has spent over 40 years overseas, is a pioneer in paediatric keyhole surgery and has developed many instruments in the field.
“I am excited about helping to develop Malaysia’s expertise in this area. I see great potential for Malaysia to become a medical hub of excellence in the region,” said Prof Tan, who will be joining UKM in September.
He said that the decision to relocate to Malaysia was “quite easy to make” and said that he regarded his appointment as a form of national service for the country.
“I chose UKM because I was assured that I would be empowered and enabled to do what I want to do. I hope to train people from all over the world in UKM and put Malaysia on the world map.”
Prof Tan, 58, was president of the South Australian chapter of the Australia Malaysia Business Council (AMBC) and is an executive committee member of the Australia Malaysia Institute (AMI).
“I came back here more often because of my position in both AMBC and AMI, which also put me in regular contact with senior government officials,” said Prof Tan who is now an Australian citizen.
He is currently the inaugural professor of paediatric surgery at the University of Adelaide in South Australia as well as director of paediatric surgery at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital there.
Prof Tan has worked at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, and was also consultant specialist at Great Ormond St Children’s Hospital in London, Britain.
Paediatric keyhole surgery is a non-invasive way of performing complex surgery on young children without needing to make large cuts in their bodies.
He has two children, a daughter who has degree in medicine and law, and a son who is a doctor.

Pill-popping may worsen your health

Star: IPOH: If you are thinking of taking pills to lose weight or gain sexual prowess, think again.
Certain pills being sold over the counter may contain harmful chemicals, according to Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad.
He said some companies, after obtaining the ministry's approval stamp, mixed such pills with dangerous substances.
“These poisonous substances may have long-term effects on a person’s health, and lead to kidney or liver failure, or skin cancer,” he said after attending the Ipoh Timur Umno Youth, Wanita and Puteri delegates meeting here.
Elaborating on the process of giving approval for such pills, he said these products in capsule form were usually presented first as herbal products.
“They (manufacturers concerned) would later add on chemicals without our knowledge.
“Products containing adulterants can only be used if prescribed by doctors. These companies are not allowed to sell them and make fake claims,” he said, adding that it was not possible for consumers to know of the make-up of the pills.
Expressing concern over such products which were gaining a hold in the local market, he said the ministry had seized over RM26mil worth of the products in 2005.

Maintain professional distance while treating patients, docs told

Star: PETALING JAYA: Doctors must treat patients with competence, care and compassion and still keep a “professional distance”.
Issuing this reminder, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican stressed that it was not appropriate at all for doctors to form any emotional bond with their patients, let alone have intimate relations with them.
“Patients (too) can be quite demanding once they have established a bond, so you (doctors) have to be very careful,” he said.
Last October, the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) had suspended a doctor for six months after he was found guilty of abusing his professional privilege and skills by engaging in an emotional relationship with the daughter-in-law of a woman who was under his care.
Dr Ismail, who is also the council president, explained that such cases were not common.
The director-general said he was on a mission to encourage all in the profession to adopt the “competence, care and compassion” approach, adding that medical students should be trained this way.
“I think the change should start in universities. I have been invited to speak to students.”
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin concurred with Dr Ismail’s views.
“Of course, there are one or two black sheep but I am satisfied with the level of care given by doctors.”

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Are they eating healthy food?

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Artery-clogging fried chicken and French fries, cholesterol-laden nasi lemak, and "tooth-achingly" sweet chocolates and ice cream.
These are what our children are eating in school every day.
There are "School Canteen Guidelines" but some operators are openly flouting them, according to a recent study by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
They sell sickly-sweet carbonated drinks, cream biscuits filled with trans fats, and jeruk buah (preserved fruit), with tonnes of sugar and preservatives, to our children.
Except for carbonated drinks, all these sweet stuff is prohibited under the guidelines.
Statistics show that more children are getting overweight and about 30 per cent are obese.
Diabetes is already on the rise among teenagers between ages 13 and 19.
Last Tuesday, the president of the National Heart Association of Malaysia, Dr Henderick Chia, was quoted as saying that more young people were suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
"Some heart disease patients I met were in their 20s," he reportedly said.
Is school canteen food making our children sick?
No one is ready to point fingers, but from the UKM study that was conducted on 12 schools in the Klang Valley, the canteen menu speaks for itself.
The findings showed that the majority of food in canteens is fried and oily.
And nasi lemak, nasi goreng and stir-fried noodles are common staple meals of our schoolchildren — all 12 schools sell them as their "main meals".
The influence of the Western diet has also crept into our school canteens — 11 out of 12 sell fried chicken, burgers, nuggets and French fries.
Sweet foods like traditional kuih are a must — all schools sell the stuff.
Ice cream and ice-lollies come a close second, with at least 10 schools selling them.
World Medical Association president Datuk Dr N. Arumugam told Bernama recently that unhealthy food and beverages, prepared by school canteen operators, contributed to obesity among children.
"Children love tasty food which has a lot of oil and beverages where the sugar content is high," he said.
He also called on the authorities to look into the situation which, if left unchecked, could lead to bigger health problems.
More people would also be prone to heart diseases.
However, UKM associate professor Dr Norimah A. Karim, who helmed the study conducted in 2004, said canteen food was not the only culprit for the increasing number of overweight children.
"I don’t think it’s fair to say that school canteens are responsible, because there are other factors that contribute to obesity," she said during a panel discussion, after presenting the findings of the study at a Nestle media workshop on Friday.
Because of the frenzied chase for paper qualifications, children are becoming physically inactive.
"The emphasis is on the cognitive skills of children, causing physical activities to be sidelined," said Norimah, a senior lecturer in UKM’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences.
Norimah said parents should make a conscious effort to educate children to make healthier choices when buying food.
Nestle Products marketing manager and marketing service unit and communications director Leong Ming Chee said most children had some idea of good nutrition.
"The knowledge is there and some know that eating a burger isn’t all that healthy.
"But they don’t know how to put their nutritional knowledge into practice."
Leong said a Nestle study of 24 schoolchildren showed their favourites were oily food like nasi lemak and fast food like chicken burgers and hot dogs.
"They place a great deal of importance on taste and variety and prefer to choose what to eat and drink."
The study also involved mothers of the children. Most said they did not trust canteen food because there was no enforcement or monitoring of food quality.
The mothers preferred to pack food for their children to take to school, said Leong, adding that boys were reluctant to bring food from home because they did not want to get teased by friends.
Health Ministry’s Food Safety and Quality division director Dr Abdul Rahim Mohamad, who was at the workshop, said: "We can’t do anything about food sold in school canteens as long as they comply with food regulations."
He said it is up to the headmaster or principal to enforce the School Canteen Guidelines.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Vitamin check: Ensuring health supplements are what they are claim to be

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will conduct an exercise to verify the vitamin and mineral content in health supplements as claimed by manufacturers.
Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek told The Star that the assessment would take three months and would be carried out by its food quality and safety, and pharmaceutical services divisions.
“There are plenty of vitamins and minerals as claimed, but nobody knows whether this is true or not. It is a long-term continuous exercise,” he said.
He said that another reason for the study was because vitamins or minerals when consumed excessively can sometimes do “more harm than good.”
“A study indicates that 20% of Malaysians, mostly in urban areas, are fond of taking food supplements,” he said, adding that the ministry was increasingly concerned about food quality and safety.
According to the Malaysian Dietary Supplement Association, Malaysians spend between RM50 and RM100 a month on health supplements.
The association found that vitamins C, E, B complex, multivitamins, folic acid and calcium are among the more popular dietary supplements, while evening primrose oil, Omega 3 fish oil, gingko biloba, royal jelly and cod liver oil make up popular natural supplements.
In a report, the association stated that the health supplement and traditional medicine industry in the country was worth RM4.5bil, with an annual growth rate of 10% to 12%.
Dr Chua also disclosed that the World Health Organisation has selected Malaysia as its Global Service Centre where administrative and financial services for all WHO offices worldwide will be handled.
He said that Kuala Lumpur was chosen from a shortlist which included Chennai, New Delhi and Manila.
Renovations on the office would begin in October with training and competency operations. The initial workforce is expected to be between 15 and 20 WHO officers from Geneva, and 70 to 80 local employees.
Dr Chua said full operations were expected to begin next year while staff intake would be conducted in stages until the end of 2009 when the Global Service Centre should employ about 200 locals.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Watch that needle, doc

NST: PETALING JAYA: Eighteen out of every 1,000 doctors are victims of needlestick injuries which hold a risk of life-threatening virus infections.
The ratio is much lower for nurses at 4.6 per 1,000.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek believes there were more than 1,000 cases of such injuries last year among government and private staff.
However, official statistics show 746 cases were reported last year, an increase of 248 over the figure in 2000.
"There is usually under-reporting of needlestick injuries, especially in the private sector," Dr Chua said, after launching the Clinical Practice Guidelines at the Seventh Liver Update here yesterday.
He said the risk of blood-borne virus infections stood at 10 to 30 per cent for Hepatitis B, three to 10 per cent for Hepatitis C and 0.3 per cent for HIV.
"Medical personnel risk being infected if they don’t do a check-up after needlestick injuries," he added.
Malayan Nurses Union secretary-general Maimunah Ahmad said such injuries due to needles and sharp objects were generally due to lack of awareness of the consequences and a lackadaisical attitude among nurses.
Citing examples of carelessness, she said: "The proper practice is to use forceps to pick up needles but sometimes nurses want to do things in a hurry and use their hands."
"Some new nurses don’t remember the protocol of disposing of needles in special bins.
"When someone accidentally throws away something and a nurse needs to rummage through the rubbish bin looking for it, he/she gets pricked," she said, adding that hospital janitors were also exposed to needlestick injuries.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin said injuries could be reduced if healthcare workers were properly trained in the safe use and disposal of needles.

High-risk groups told to have blood tested for hepatitis

Star: PETALING JAYA: More than a million Malaysians are estimated to be carriers of hepatitis virus, and the Health Ministry wants those in the high-risk groups to have their blood tested.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said there were 1.3 million Hepatitis B carriers and half of them could infect other people.
“They are a source of infection and can infect others through needles, blood or sex,” he told reporters after opening the 7th Liver Update conference.
Between 500,000 and 800,000 people are Hepatitis C chronic carriers, Dr Chua added.
Hepatitis A remains the most common and the virus can be transmitted through food.
Dr Chua said a lot of liver cancer cases, which is one of the top 10 cancers among Malaysian men, were due to Hepatitis B and C.
He said healthcare workers were also at risk of contracting Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV because they sustained sharp injuries when handling needles.
The number of such cases increased from 498 in 2000 to 746 last year.
On the dengue outbreak in Kelantan, Dr Chua said Malaysians needed to be more committed in overcoming the problem adding that the “battle would not be easily won” if people continued to blame parties like the local authorities.

We know it, but we just don't wash our hands

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The next time you shake another person’s hand, just be aware that the majority of Malaysians do not wash their hands after sneezing or coughing.
The startling discovery was made in a survey involving 1,000 housewives nationwide in the 2007 Hygiene Council Survey.
Malaysian Committee Member and Specialist in Infectious Disease of the Global Hygiene Council Dr Christopher Lee said while 45 % of the respondents were aware of the importance of washing their hands after coughing or sneezing they did not follow through.
“It is interesting to note that the awareness has increased from 30% last year to 45% this year.
“Malaysians also believe that playgrounds and nursery were the likely place to catch an infection (50%) as compared to homes (5%) and more than 60% of the respondents were of the opinion that the toilet basin had most germs in the house.
“Five percent thought that door handlers had the least germs,” he said during a media briefing on Thursday, adding that the latter perception was inaccurate.
Also present during the presentation was Reckitt Benckiser Malaysia and Singapore’s marketing director Anthony Palmer.
Palmer said the Hygiene Council was formed in 2006 and brings together 10 experts in the field of virology, microbiology, infectious diseases, immunology and public health.
“The Hygiene Council focuses on prevailing hygiene practices in 10 different countries and offer realistic recommendations to the public on the importance of hygiene in the home and community.
“Last year, The Hygiene Council released the results from its first survey, which is now an annual one, and we discovered some rather worrying facts and figures regarding Malaysian’s hygiene habits,” he said.

Chua: Don’t reuse food and water containers

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Do not reuse plastic food and water containers. This is the advice given by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said this was because the quality of such products was “questionable” and Malaysians were at risk of being exposed to chemicals which might seep into the food or liquid.
“Takeaway plastic food containers used in eating outlets are disposable items and designed for single use only.
They are not intended for repeated storage of food,” he said in an interview with The Star.
Instead, Dr Chua said that people should only use reusable plastic food containers such as cups, plates, bowls, bottles and boxes used in household kitchens for repeated storage of food because these containers have attributes such as sturdiness and thermal stability.
He emphasised that takeaway food containers which were labelled “microwave safe” for reheating should not be reused.
As for mineral water plastic bottles, Dr Chua said it was not advisable to keep on reusing them.
“It is not easy to clean. You can never reach the inside and in the hot Malaysian weather, the stability is questionable,” he said.
His comments were based on a recently concluded study commissioned by the ministry to the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya, carried out by Prof Dr Mustafa Ali Mohamad.
The study showed that in 45 of the 47 containers examined, at least one chemical was detected. However, the level of the leachate detected was low.
The scope of the study was to analyse chemicals in plastic polystyrene food containers.
The chemicals analysed were styrene monomer, bisphenol A (BPA), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), benzyl butyle phthalate (BBP), di- 2-ethylexyl adipate (DEHA) and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP).
The samples included different types of food and water containers and were extracted at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Dr Chua said the level of chemicals was low “but you cannot rule out the small amounts excreted which will accumulate in the body.”
He cited the potential that BBP had in affecting a person’s endocrine function such as the thyroid gland and pancreas. Dr Chua also said it was safe to freeze meat directly in its original commercial plastic wrapping.
For long storage, rewrap or over-wrap the meat tightly with moisture-proof freezer bags to maintain the quality and texture of the meat, he said.

Not safe to use cheap plastics for hot drinks

Star: PETALING JAYA: Plastic bags are not meant for storing hot drinks and the practice should “absolutely not be done”, according to a local researcher.
Prof Dr Mustafa Ali Mohamad, deputy dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya, said yesterday that this was because such plastic bags were not made to last and placing liquids such as hot coffee or tea would promote chemical seepage from the bag into the drink.
This, he said, could be additionally damaging if the drink contained milk which had fat that could further promote leachate of chemicals.
The heat has greater chance of breaking down the polymer compound of the plastic and fat.
“It is not safe, unless the plastic is made for hot drinks. Most of the time, it is made from cheap material that is not too resistant to heat,” he said.
Dr Mustafa Ali advised the public that, to avoid being exposed to chemicals, they should instead pack their drinks in containers or cups specially made for hot liquids.
On polystyrene containers used to pack hot food like fried mee, he said the heat would damage the material and advised that a layer of paper or banana leaf be used to prevent direct contact.
He added it was advisable not to place hot food or drinks in these containers.
Dr Mustafa Ali headed a recently concluded study, commissioned by the Health Ministry, which detected at least one chemical in 45 of 47 containers examined.
However, the level of the leachate detected was low. The study was to analyse chemicals in plastic and polystyrene containers.
He added that it was not his intention to have plastic banned from being used for such purposes but that the public needs to know of the risk involved.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said yesterday that it was difficult to ensure that food operators change plastic-ware.
However, he said in an interview that it was crucial for consumers not to misuse packaging materials in an “unintended or unanticipated manner”.
He added that commercial plastic packaging that had been used for storing non-food items should never be reused as food containers as it may contain non-food residues that would contaminate the food.
On cling films, he advised the public to use only those designated as suitable for use in microwave ovens.

Doctor's Order Needed For Health Test

KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 (Bernama) -- Pathology laboratories in the country now require a doctor's or dentist's referral letter before they can conduct tests on patients.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said previously the laboratories could advertise the tests they did and merely needed the patient's agreement to carry out the tests.
"They could also demand exorbitant fees if they want to," he said during the winding-up of the debate on the Pathology Laboratories 2007 Bill at the Dewan Negara Thursday.
Answering a question from Senator Mumtaz Md Nawi who wanted to know whether confidential information on a patient's health would be erased after a certain period, he said it would.
Answering a question from Senator M. Munusamy who wanted to know whether the existing pathology laboratories would be closed, he said they would not.
"However, they would be required to upgrade their facilities within six months after the Act is enforced, to continue operating," he said.
The Bill was passed.
The Senate sitting will resume on Monday.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Healthcare staff who do not wash their hands

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Forty per cent of doctors, nurses and other personnel did not wash their hands before touching patients at the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital here, according to a study done early this year.
The study at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital (HUKM) was done by the hospital’s infection control doctor and consultant microbiologist Professor Dr Nordiah Awang Jalil.
Dr Nordiah said this at the Third International Congress of the Asia-Pacific Society of Infection Control yesterday.
The theme of the three-day congress is "Infection control in a global village".
One of the key areas being discussed is healthcare-associated infection (HCAI).
Nordiah’s study was done to check on incidents relating to HCAI, a phenomenon that affects hundreds of millions of hospital patients worldwide.
After the initial finding of her study, Nordiah said she undertook several measures, starting with talks on the importance of hand hygiene among healthcare professionals.
Although the response was positive, a follow-up check at the ICU a month later showed that only 62 per cent of the staff complied with the regulation.
Not wanting to give up, Dr Nordiah went on a campaign to educate staff on the importance of hand hygiene.
Her third step involved installing voice-recorded messages at the entrance of the ICU urging doctors, nurses and visitors to wash their hands.
"Some were in fear of being watched when the recorded voice came on, so they headed for the sink," she said.
A subsequent audit two months later revealed an 80 per cent compliance rate.
"People wash their hands after handling or visiting a patient because they are conscious about their own health. They are self-centred, not patient-centred," Dr Nordiah said.
But the lack of hand hygiene is not exclusively a Malaysian problem.
In his paper, Professor Didier Pittet, who leads the World Health Organisation’s World Alliance for Patient Safety campaign, said HCAI involved seven to 12 per cent of hospitalised patients and could lead to complications in 20 to 45 per cent of the critical cases.
Dr Nordiah said studies showed that practising good hand hygiene cost less than one per cent of the cost of managing the infection.
To make things easier, alcohol-based handrub, in place of soap and water, was being widely promoted, she said.
Deputy Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noorimi Morad said the ministry had embarked on a hand hygiene campaign last year after it became a signatory of the World Alliance for Patient Safety.
"A team of infection control personnel visited state hospitals to brief staff on the importance of hand hygiene.
"The critical units we focused on were the accident and emergency department, the ICU and the haemodialysis centre," she said.

Are your hands clean, doc?

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Remind doctors to keep their hands clean. That is what Health Ministry deputy director-general (medical) Datuk Dr Noorimi Morad wants nurses to do to ensure that patients do not get infected while in hospital.
“Nurses are better in complying than doctors. We have to persist in increasing awareness,” she told The Star yesterday after opening the 3rd International Congress of the Asia-Pacific Society of Infection Control.
“It is not that they do not want to do it, but they might forget when they are very busy. So, the nurses must be around to remind the doctors.
“The transmission of infection occurs through activities like when doctors examine a patient and move from one patient to the next. That is one of the most common ways of transmission.”
She said it was important for all healthcare providers to change their mindset and attitude in keeping up with the latest trends.
This included the “alcohol-based hand rub”, introduced by the ministry last year in critical care areas, whose usage would be expanded to all in-patient units this year.
Malaysia affirmed its commitment to the World Health Organisation’s Global Patient Safety Challenge last year, which emphasises the delivery of safe healthcare through effective hand hygiene.
Dr Noorimi said infection control committees in hospitals would help create awareness besides conduct training programmes and monitor activities of staff, adding that the ministry was still dissatisfied with the level of awareness.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Severe period cramps could be first sign of future infertility

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: It is a condition that affects one in 10 women but few even know it exists.
Worse still, many general practitioners, obstetricians and gynaecologists are not fully aware of the problem.
The problem is endometriosis, a condition that causes severe cramps before and after monthly periods and during sex.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus.
While such tissue in most women is expelled in the menstrual cycle, in women suffering from endometriosis, they sometimes become ovarian cysts.
Such cysts could be functional, benign or cancerous and may need surgical removal.
Laparoscopic surgeon Col Dr (Rtd) Hanifullah Khan said endometriosis was the most common cause of infertility in Malaysian woman.
He estimated that about 50 per cent of women who had problems conceiving suffered from the disorder.
"Many women suffering from pain during periods and pain during sex go through their lives without realising that they have endometriosis, thinking that what they are feeling is normal."
He said it was unfortunate that many medical practitioners were unaware of the problem and what to do about it.
That is why he organised the Second Asia Pacific Endometriosis Alliance Scientific Meeting next week.
In conjunction with the meeting, a public forum was held on Saturday at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel here.
Dr Hanifullah said that while his patients were from different age groups, most came to him in their late 20s or early 30s when they realised they could not conceive.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Headaches may spell trouble

NST: BATU GAJAH: Do not treat headaches lightly as they might be symptoms of serious health problems such as hypertension and diabetes.
"Usually people will just take a Panadol and dismiss it, but a headache could mean many things, such as failing eyesight, high blood pressure, or an imbalance in your electrolytes," warned Batu Gajah Hospital director Dr Premavathy Balakrishan.
Speaking at a health carnival at Kampung Bemban near here yesterday, she said three local residents who had been ignoring their headaches were admitted to the hospital yesterday after checks revealed that their blood pressure and sugar level were dangerously high.
"They are lucky to be alive," she said, adding that some cases could lead to kidney failure.
Headaches, giddiness and nausea are usually associated with hypertension and diabetes, which are closely related to high cholesterol levels.
The day-long health carnival was organised by the Perak Health Department with the co-operation of the Kinta health department and the Batu Gajah Hospital.
Pharmacy enforcement officer Zulkhairi Mohamed Daud warned the public against buying cheap ubat papan (small doses of medicine stapled to a cardboard and usually hung up for sale) as they were not made from herbs as claimed but contained steroids.
"The medicines may help with backaches and joint pains in the short term, but in the long term, they will damage the kidney or liver," he said.
The medicines, sold at RM1 or RM2 for a small bottle, usually target elderly folk in rural areas. They claim to cure arthritis or possess aphrodisiac qualities extracted from Tongkat Ali.
Zulkhairi said ubat papan was not among the registered traditional medicines recognised by the health authorities.
Hundreds of residents were present at yesterday’s health carnival, as some 250 staff from the hospital and the health department converted the multipurpose hall into a "mini hospital", offering free health checks and consultations with general practitioners, surgeons, dieticians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and dentists.
The carnival was launched by Tronoh state assemblyman Datuk Lee Kon Yin.

Beware of adulterated herbal products

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Consumers need to be cautious when buying imported herbal products as they could be adulterated.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said these imported herbal products would initially comply with local regulations.
However, once they entered the market, the manufacturers would begin to adulterate them.
"Some of the supplements, for instance, were found to contain bacteria," he said after officiating a seminar on hepatitis awareness and protection of the liver.
However, he was unable to say how many supplements had been found to be adulterated.
He added the ministry’s enforcement division had also found cases involving herbal slimming products targeted at the Chinese market.
"In a raid conducted in 2005, RM26 million worth of adulterated imported products were confiscated, including herbal supplements and cosmetic products," he said.
He tressed that those promoting herbal supplements should not make unproven claims that they could cure specific illnesses.
"These products have not undergone clinical trials and, therefore, they cannot make such claims."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Foreign patients bring in RM204m

NST: GEORGE TOWN: Malaysia raked in RM203.6 million in hospital receipts last year from nearly 300,000 foreign medical patients.
Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said Penang’s portion of the takings amounted to RM129.9 million or 63.83 per cent of the total.
The other cities involved were Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Johor Baru.
"We are expecting double-digit growth for hospital receipt figures this year," he said after witnessing the signing of a clinical research collaboration between YSP Industries Sdn Bhd and Penang-based Infor Kinetics Sdn Bhd here.
Among the types of treatment sought are for heart ailments, cosmetic surgery, and wellness treatment at spas.
"Patients include those from Indonesia and Singapore. The government is studying ways to make medical tourism more attractive to invest in."
Healthcare tourism in Malaysia took off in an aggressive manner in 2002 when Tourism Malaysia began promoting it overseas.
Lee said private hospital operators had begun talks with the government over tax breaks for the industry.
"This include tax-relief on the purchase of medical equipment or capital allowance on costs for new buildings," he said, adding that the proposed breaks were to reduce the "burden" on these institutions to enable them to continuously invest in upgrading their services.
"The Health Ministry supports this request since it will facilitate more investments in health care in the country and indirectly also boost our medical tourism efforts."
Lee said talks were ongoing between the operators, his ministry and the Finance and International Trade and Industry ministries on the matter.

Dengue epidemic,and it will get worse

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The country is facing a dengue epidemic. And it is expected to get worse due to global warming.
Last week, the number of dengue cases breached the 1,000 mark for the second time in a month, signalling an epidemic.
A total of 1,044 cases were reported last week. The previous week, it stood at 1,116.
Between January and June, a total of 25,858 dengue cases were reported nationwide compared with 16,808 cases during the same period last year.
The disease has claimed 56 lives so far this year compared with 46 during the same period last year.
Hospitals and health clinics have been put on alert and the government has ordered the National Dengue Operations Centre and all state and district operation centres to be open from 8am to 4.30pm.
Deputy director-general of Health Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat said: "It is partly due to global warming.
"We are going to see a rise in vector-borne and water-borne diseases."
He called on Malaysians to check the spread of the disease by destroying Aedes mosquito-breeding grounds and following the do’s and don’ts outlined by the department.
"It is not just the mosquitoes which are going to pose a threat to public health. We can also expect more water-borne diseases due to global warming."
At the recent global warming conference held here, scientists expressed concern that rising temperatures could have a huge impact on people’s health in the Asia-Pacific region, causing more of everything, from food poisoning to dengue and malaria.
The alarming rise in dengue is also seen in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and some other countries in the region.
Selangor, with 9,137 dengue cases, tops the list with the highest number of cases in the country followed by Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (4,548), Johor (1,685), Perak (1,555) and Kelantan (1,530).
Dr Ramlee said enforcement checks nationwide showed owners of houses were the main "breeders" of the Aedes mosquito, followed by construction sites, schools and factories.
Between January and June 30, the department issued 7,526 notices and 8,277 compound notices and collected RM1,185,040 in fines.
The public can contact the National Dengue Operation Centre by calling 03-88810200 or 03-88810300.

Kedah School Canteen Operators To Undergo Health Checks

BALING, July 6 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will conduct health checks on all school canteen operators in Kedah soon, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
He said health authorities would scrutinise the cleanliness of the premises and places where food was stored as well as personal hygiene practices of food handlers to ensure they met health standards.
"We take a serious view of the increasing number of food poisoning cases among school students in Kedah and we'll conduct thorough checks to address the problem," he told reporters after launching the Parent-Teacher Day organised by Baling MCA here Thursday night.
Dr Chua said Health Department teams would act against errant canteen operators.
To date, 1,000 students in the state have reportedly come down with food poisoning after consuming contaminated food at their school canteens.
Dr Chua supported the move by the Education Ministry to revoke the licences of canteen operators whose operations led to food poisoning.
"Schools with suspected food poisoning cases should close the operations of the canteens for two weeks pending checks by the Health Department," he said.
Dr Chua said food poisoning would likely occur when cleanliness was not a priority resulting in the contamination of food.
"School canteen operators can't simply say this is not their fault," he added.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Dengue red alert in Hulu Selangor

NST: KUALA KUBU BARU: Hulu Selangor has been placed on the red alert after 385 people went down with dengue fever in the first six months of the year.
Two people, aged 18 and 37, died in Batang Kali.
Hulu Selangor MP Datuk G. Palanivel chaired a meeting of health officers and representatives of the Hulu Selangor Municipal Council and non-governmental organisations to discuss the situation.
"We are pressing the red button because the situation is dangerous."
He said hospitals and government clinics would be open round-the-clock to cope with the sick.
Last year, there were 461 dengue cases in the district.
Palanivel said the main reasons for the high number of dengue cases were illegal dumping, floods, potholes and ponds that became the breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito which carries the dengue virus.
"Due to this, Hulu Selangor is a fertile ground for mos-quitos to breed," he said.
Palanivel has asked the Hulu Selangor Municipal Council to intensify fogging in the affected areas to break the breeding cycle of the Aedes mosquito.
He said he had also directed the council to clear illegal garbage from housing estates.
The worst-hit areas are Serendah, Bukit Beruntung and Bukit Sentosa with 218 cases reported since January.
He said Batang Kali reported 52 cases, Ampang Pecah and Hulu Bernam 24 each, Rasa 14, Kalumpang 5, Kerling 4 and Sungai Tengi one.
Palanivel said: "It is necessary to sound the alarm to raise the level of awareness among the people and agencies of the dengue outbreak here."
He advised the people to seek treatment if they had persistent fever.

In Kuala Lumpur, the increase in the number of suspected dengue cases has prompted the Health Ministry to approach maid agencies and building contractors to help combat the spread of the disease.
"Checks by the Health Ministry on the places which tested positive as Aedes mosquito breeding grounds have shown that 89 per cent of them are residential areas," said Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon.
"This is followed by construction sites which accounted for 2.2 per cent," Lee said.
He said the ministry, with the co-operation of maid agencies and contractors, would educate maids and construction workers on the dangers of dengue through lectures and workshops.
Statistics from the Health Ministry also revealed that from Jan 1 to June 23, 24,808 suspected dengue cases had been reported.
This is more than half the number of cases reported last year , which was 38,556.
It was also revealed that from January to June 9, the Federal Territory had 4,136 dengue cases, compared with 2,630 during the same period last year.
Lee said as of June 16, there had been 52 deaths nationwide due to dengue fever.
The number for the whole of last year was 83.
He assured the public that the ministry was doing its part to eradicate the spread of dengue.
Lee added: "To date, 526 compounds have been issued to the owners or tenants of premises that were identified as Aedes breeding grounds," he said.
As of June 16, RM58,720 had been collected in compound fines, he added.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Talk to kids about sex and morals

NST: One baby is abandoned every 10 days in the Klang Valley, mostly by unwed teenagers.
"The Welfare Department recorded 315 cases from 2001 to 2004, and police statistics show about 100 a year," said National Population and Family Development Board consultant Dr Ang Eng Suan.
"Unwanted pregnancies can be managed with education and support from the family and partners."
She said parents must talk to their children about sex to safeguard them from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Encouraging abstinence is important, but children need information about sex and its consequences to make that choice.
Ang said she felt it was necessary to discuss not just sex and contraception with her 20-something daughters but morals as well.
"I conducted a focus group once involving unwed teenage mothers. I asked a participant whether her mother had talked to her about sex, and she said, ‘of course, she told me to jaga (be careful)’," said Dr Ang. "And when I asked her why she did it, she said ‘seronok’ (fun)."
Dr Ang was presenting a paper at the National Population Conference 2007.
The three-day conference, which ends today, was organised by the National Population and Family Development Board.

Quicker response to public healthcare complaints

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Complaints from the public against government healthcare facilities will be heard and dealt with swiftly.
This assurance from the Health Ministry comes following several improvements made to its complaints and medico-legal management mechanism that now provides a comfortable and easy way for patients and their families to air their grouses.
Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said that patient relation officers (PRO) had been appointed in 133 government hospitals nationwide and other healthcare facilities to record, discuss and explain any grouses brought up by a complainant.
“If a complainant is still unsatisfied, the problem will be taken up to the hospital director.
“Should the matter remain unresolved, the hospital director would then need to convene the Hospital Grievance Committee (HGC) immediately and hold an internal inquiry.
“An Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) would then be formed should there be any medico-legal implications,” said Lee.
He added that a community representative, who is either a member of the Hospital Visiting Board, a state assemblyman or MP, would also be involved during investigations by the HGC or IIC.
Lee described the community representative’s involvement as an assurance that investigations would be carried with transparency and fairness.
“The presence of a community representative will also help remove any suspicion or fear of bias in the management of any complaint or medico-legal case,” he said, after conducting a briefing on the issue in Parliament yesterday.
During a conference, Lee said that 40 million people visited government medical facilities every year and that it was a tremendous burden for the Ministry.
He said the country was understaffed and needed more manpower to cope with the huge number of patients and their grouses.
“In the last six years, we settled more than 50 cases totalling RM3.5mil in compensation. From January to March this year, we received 53 complaints from the public and are working swiftly to resolve them,” he said.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Malaysia alert to spread of diseases

NST: The incidence of infectious diseases in the country has been going steadily downwards, but we cannot become complacent.
Reducing their spread was still a serious burden, said director-general of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
He attributed the drop to improvements in socio-economic status, good sanitation and safe water, co-ordinated control programmes, better disease surveillance and good interagency collaboration.
"Infectious disease can spread through international borders which are readily interconnected in the globalised world."
He was presenting a paper on "Emerging threats to public health" at the three-day 2nd Asia Pacific Conference on Public Health yesterday.
Globally, about 58 million people a year died from killers like acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia and influenza, AIDS, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, malaria and measles, he said.
The problem of infectious diseases is most severe in the developing world. Children, the elderly, women and those with a weakened immune system are most at risk.
Malaysia’s biggest challenge will be tackling emerging and re-emerging diseases and drug-resistant infections.
Dr Ismail said disease emergence and re-emergence were caused by changes in human demographics and behaviour, technological advances and changes in industry practice, the rapid increase in speed and volume of air travel, economic development and urbanisation.
He said climate and ecosystem changes, microbial mutation and adaptation, inadequate public health capacity for infectious disease control and the use of antibiotics were also contributing factors.
He said diseases passed from animals to humans — zoonotic diseases — were another threat that must be controlled.
"It is important that Malaysians uphold standard practices in food hygiene, hospital infection control, water management and waste disposal.
"Personal hygiene and simple hand washing will prevent infections."