The World Health Day 2021

Every year the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Health Day on the 7th of April. The theme for this year’s World Health Day is “Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone“. This year the World Health Day is celebrated in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus of the theme is a call for action to eliminate health inequalities. The world we live in is still an unequal one – the place where we live, work and play may make it harder for some to reach their full health potential, while others thrive.

Academics and student from the department been doing their parts to highlight the issues that should be addressed for a fairer, healthier world for everyone.

A fairer world for diabetic

Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming, Prof Dr Noran Naqiah Hairi and Dr Wan Kim Sui our Doctor of Public Health candidate wrote a letter highlighting the issue of diabetes in low- and middle-income countries which was published on Malaysiakini. They highlighted that the disparity in the diabetes trend can be partly explained by the disproportionate increase in obesity rates in low- and middle-income countries. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes and is associated with the obesity-promoting environment; i.e., expensive healthy food choices and lack of safe environments and facilities to do physical activity. The economic burden of diabetes is enormous. The estimated productivity losses from premature deaths, absenteeism and presenteeism due to diabetes alone were RM5.7 billion in 2017.

The proposed the following measures to improve of people with diabetes:

  1. Get to know your personalised ABC goals from your doctors. Try to achieve them by adhering to medications, exercising regularly and eating sensibly.
  2. Do not miss appointments. Consider telemedicine, such as video or phone call, if this service is available to maintain good doctor-patient interaction.
  3. Leverage digital health technology (e.g., nutrition, physical activity, blood sugar monitoring apps) to support diabetes self-management.
  4. Join a diabetes support group. For instance, peer support may reduce disease-associated distress and improve health behaviours.

COVID-19 and achieving a fairer world

In an interview with Astro Radio, Prof Dr Victor Hoe discussed COVID-19 and building a fairer, healthier world for everyone.

The theme for this year’s World Health Day is “Let’s build a fairer, healthier world for everyone”. The theme is timely and reflect on what have been happening around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 is a reminder to us that if we do not act now and treat everyone fairly in term of health, the World may not survive the next pandemic.

The theme focused on action to eliminate health inequities.

Health inequities are generated when quality of direct health determinants is unevenly distributed between groups. This includes structural determinants like the socioeconomic, political, and social structure. It is also determined by the health system and social factors.

The report from the Khazanah Research Institute on Social Inequalities and Health in Malaysia published in 2020 shows that Malaysia has made great progress in improving health outcomes over the last 50 years.

However, the report also highlighted that health inequities exist in Malaysia among different states and population of different social back grounds. Shorter life expectancy was found in states with lower incomes. People in the lower income quintiles have poorer physical and mental health. The report indicated that health problems and health damaging behaviour are concentrated in the lower income quintiles.  

Over the past 50 years we have also seen that the demographic transition from rural to urban population. There is a reversal of the rural-urban population, from less than 30% of the population living in urban areas in the 1970 to more than 70% in 2020. This rapid urbanisation has led to income, social and needs-wants disconnect and further worsen the health inequities.

Type of work has also been found to be a factor for health inequities, people in with informal employment, foreign workers and unemployment have poorer health and lower health seeking behaviour. We have seen that due to the inequities among the working groups, there were many COVID-19 clusters among workers.  

Health inequities are preventable. We just need to have strategies and policies that look beyond delivery of health care, and address issues of providing equal access to health and healthy behaviour opportunities for all – especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Addressing health inequities led to better health for all and prepare us for the next pandemic.

It has been more than a year since the first case of the COVID-19 patient was diagnosed in Malaysia. The Government of Malaysia have constantly provided educational materials and updates on the COVID-19 diseases through all the media sources, i.e., print, radio, tv, online and social media. We also received daily updates on number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Besides the Government, the media, universities, and non-governmental organisation has also played their roles in educating the public. I think that most people know about the SARS-COV-2 and COVID-19 disease, about how it spread and how to prevent its spread. However, there may be some fatigue in following the SOP, as the disease has been here for a very long time. Most people want to return to the time before COVID-19. 

I understand the worry that some people have towards the COVID-19 vaccine. We should not dismiss those worries. Last Sunday, I had an opportunity to talk with the resident of Subang Jaya and listened to their views and answered their questions on the doubts of the COVID-19 vaccine. Some of the elderly residents were worried of the complication of the COVID-19 vaccine.

There was a Filipino gentleman who shared the story of the passing of his brother in the Philippines just a few days back. The brother was sick and went to the hospital, a RTK swab was taken, and he was diagnosed to be COVID-19 positive. After just a few days, the brother passed away. This was indeed a sad story, he further advice the residence who had doubts to take the vaccine and the disease is more dangerous than the vaccine.

We know that there are reports of side effects after taking the vaccine, most of these side effects are mild, like redness or sourness at the site of injection, feeling tired or fatigue, headache, muscle ache and fever or chills. Having side effects is not a bad thing, it shows that the vaccine is working, and the body is responding to the vaccine.

The number of people who develop severe side effects is very small compared to the number of people that have vaccinated. All the reported deaths after vaccination have not been linked to the effect of the vaccination. This is coincidental death, which means death from other causes.

The main thing that we need to know is that the COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be effective in preventing asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 infection. It has also been proven that people who have received the full vaccine and develop COVID-19 disease have only mild infection.

Food Security among Urban Poor: A Year into the Pandemic

Associate Professor Dr Hazreen Abdul Majid from the Centre for Population Health and Dr Lye Chuan Way, Doctor of Public Health candidate from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine was featured in The Sin Chew newspaper. With the rise in the unemployment rate in Malaysia hitting 5.3% last year, food insecurity simultaneously is on the rise leading to negative health outcomes including chronic diseases. They call out to all stakeholders to help tackle this plight by serving back to the community.

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