It is said that the true nature of society lies in its margins. The marginalised communities in Malaysia are not unique to other communities that are marginalised in the region. During their study for the Master in Public Health programme at the Social Preventive Medicine Department (SPM) of University of Malaya in 2012, Tharani Loganathan and Nur Khaulah Fadzil realised that many members of our community have limited access to healthcare and the need for a curated response that is equitable was really highlighted. A class that left a particularly lasting impression was one by Prof Saimy, “Humanitarian Response in a Disaster Crisis” whereby various stakeholders, working on the ground were invited to share their work. From that point on, it was obvious that the degree was bigger than a certificate. It was the beginning of a commitment to using whatever platform and skills that we have to work towards a more inclusive society; one that is equitable and fair.
Three Malaysians are fellows of the Equity Initiative Fellowship for Leadership in Health Equity in South East Asia. Nicola Suyin Pocock was part of the first cohort of fellows in 2016 and Tharani Loganathan was in the 2017 cohort. This year, Nur Khaulah Fadzil represents Malaysia as a 2018 Equity Initiative Fellow. All three ladies represent Malaysia, on this platform that brings together young leaders in South East Asia and China, working towards a set of shared goals; improving health equity for all in the region. Tharani and Khaulah, both obtained public health training from the Social and Preventive Medicine Department of the University of Malaya. The training provided by the SPM department is the foundation that guides their work and commitment to improving health equity in Malaysia.
The Equity Initiative has two main objectives: to cultivate and nurture the next generation of leaders through its fellowship programme and to build a collaborative community for promoting health equity in the region. This program is linked to global and regional institutions, and partners with world-class expertise and knowledge, towards the long-term vision to facilitate the development of a new generation of leaders in health equity (500+) in 20 years. The Equity Initiative is backed by a pooled fund from the Atlantic Philanthropies and China Medical Board. The Equity Initiative Fellowship is a six week, non-residential programme taking the fellows for four events within Southeast Asian countries, one event based at Harvard University and one event outside the region. The Equity Initiative fellows are a diverse group of young professionals who have demonstrated dedication to leading change in health equity. Although the programme is designed to be active for the first two years, in reality, the fellowship is lifelong. The Equity Initiative Fellowship provides opportunities for continued collaboration in supporting the fellows and their work. The fellows are also part of a larger global network of Atlantic Fellows.
The SPM Department and the Equity Initiative are continuing to be the ideal support system for the next generation of transformative leaders, in promoting and improving health equity in our society. The Equity Initiative adds on to the building blocks and a strong foundation of health equity that we formed with the SPM Department. It is not lost on us that both of us that are selected for the Equity Initiative Fellowship were trained at SPM Department and would like to acknowledge the role that has played by our outstanding lecturers in shaping our understanding in health equity and social justice.
Written by: Nur Khaulah Fadzil and Tharani LoganathanNur Khaulah is a livelihoods field officer with Malaysian Humanitarian Aid & Relief, a development organisation. She has worked with refugees in Malaysia and Lebanon, leading various community-based projects to improve livelihoods, access to health care and prevention and response towards sexual and gender-based violence through her work with UNHCR and MAHAR. She advises the Malaysian National Youth Volunteer Programme (MYCORPS), an initiative by the Ministry of Youth & Sports Malaysia, through conducting needs assessments of local communities in South Asia and Africa. She is a member of the Malaysian AIDS Council. Her training in public health is the foundation of her commitment to work towards a more inclusive society.
Tharani is a Medical Lecturer at the Social and Preventive Medicine Department at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya. Previously, she worked as a public health specialist with the Ministry of Health, Malaysia. A medical doctor with a Doctorate in Public Health (DrPH) from the University of Malaya, Tharani specialized in health economics. Her research involved a comprehensive economic evaluation of rotavirus vaccines to support vaccine introduction into publicly funded vaccination program in Malaysia. Tharani developed an evaluation framework that incorporated a unique examination of the distributional aspects of the costs and benefits of rotavirus vaccination for Malaysian children. Tharani has a strong interest in advancing health system goals of achieving universal health coverage and providing financial risk protection to households.