This speech was read by the Deputy Minister of Health, Dato’ Seri Dr Hilimi Yahya during the opening ceremony of the 10th Allied Health Scientific Conference 2014, 9 September 2014 at Berjaya Time Square Hotel KL
Thank you Mr. / Ms. Chairperson
YBhg Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah,
Director-General of Health, Malaysia
Dr Khairiyah Abdul Muttalib,
Principal Director, Oral Health Division,
Ministry of Health Malaysia
YBhg Dato’ Tan Yoke Hwa,
Director of Allied Health Sciences Division,
Ministry of Health Malaysia
and Organising Chairperson of the 10th Allied Health Scientific Conference
Dr. Graham Harrison,
WHO representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam & Singapore
Dr Jacqui Lunday Johnstone,
Convenor, International Chief Health Professions Officers (ICHPO)
Distinguished speakers and delegates, Honoured guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Greetings and a very warm welcome to everyone present here today,
1.It is indeed an honour and a pleasure to be amongst such distinguished company! The Honourable Minister of Health, Malaysia has asked me to convey his best wishes to you and he deeply regrets that he is unable to be with you today as he has to attend the World Economic Forum in China.
2.He has thus requested that I represent him to officiate the opening of the 10th Allied Health Scientific Conference 2014. I note with great pleasure that the theme chosen for this year’s event is “Transforming Allied Health Practices Towards Excellence : A multidisciplinary Team Approach” and it is indeed a very apt one.
3. That is why it has been said that “The noblest search is the search for excellence”. However, like many things in life, this search for excellence can seldom be achieved alone. As the American author Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little but together we can do so much”. Thus, this noble endeavour – the search for excellence, requires that we utilise the best of our efforts collectively as a team, as a well-oiled machine, in our endeavour to realise the Vision for Health which is “A nation working together for better health”.
Ladies and gentlemen,
4. I am also very pleased to welcome Dr. Jacqui Lunday Johnstone, Convenor, International Chief Health Professions Officer (ICHPO) and her team. Thank you so much for diligently working with our Allied Health Sciences Division to make this conference a reality as well as a resounding success.
5. I understand that the conference delegates attending today’s conference come from a multitude of healthcare disciplines. Besides the various Allied Health Professionals, there are clinical specialists, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses and also clinical hypnotherapists in our midst. It is indeed encouraging to have these professionals coming together with a common purpose, i.e. for the good of the reason for existence of the healthcare professions…our patients, who are indeed at the centre of the healthcare Universe. “Carpe diem” or “Seize the day”, and I am glad that you have seized this excellent opportunity to be here.
6.The Alma Ata Declaration of the World Health Organisation in 1978, reaffirmed the WHO definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The Ministry of Health Malaysia considers health as a basic human right in accordance with the WHO Constitution of 1946. Thus, every Malaysian should be able to attain “a level of health that will permit them to lead a socially and economically productive life”.
7. The MOH also reaffirms its policy that health is a major resource that is critical to the success of the nation’s economy. Health and health care are viewed as investments and not as a “cost” to the country. The Government of Malaysia has far-sightedly included health improvement as part of socio-economic development through its rolling 5 year Malaysia Plans, ever since Independence in 1957. This is also reaffirmed by the Alma Ata Declaration that “Economic and social development, is of basic importance to the fullest attainment of health for all ……”
8. Malaysia has made impressive achievements in its efforts to improve the health of its citizens. Key health status indicators such as life expectancy at birth for both genders has increased over the years, rising from 56 years for males and 58 for females in 1957 to 72 years for males and 77 years for females in 2011. Good indicators of overall health system performance such as infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate, have been significantly reduced to levels that are comparable to those of developed nations. From 0.32 per 10,000 live births in 1957 our maternal mortality rate has dropped to 0.026 today. Likewise, our infant mortality rate has been reduced from 7.55 per 10,000 live births in 1957 to 0.66 at present. For such a young nation as ours, these are indeed commendable!
9. “Words are just words, promises are just promises but only ACTION is reality” as the saying goes. Thus the Federal Government has committed itself to bringing about meaningful improvement to the lives of the rakyat. What we want to achieve are real improvements that can be attained in terms of health status, health services, quality of life as well as the happiness and satisfaction of the people.
10. As a result, Malaysia indeed has one of the region’s better performing healthcare systems. Malaysians enjoy a relative high overall standard of health. We have an equitable and highly accessible public health care delivery system that has made tremendous health gains as well as comprehensive service coverage. As a result of our Government’s policies, Malaysia has been acknowledged by international agencies such as Bloomberg news agency, which ranked Malaysia’s healthcare system as the 18th most efficient healthcare system in the world. Also, in 2014, a survey by the reputable InternationalLiving.com, rated Malaysia as having the third best healthcare system out of 24 major countries in its Global Retirement Index survey. Malaysia was also rated as Asia’s best place to retire.
11. Also, the United Nations has acknowledged our success in addressing the Millennium Development Goals, in particular maternal health and our fight against HIV and Malaria. In addition, in recognition of our efforts to ensure the safety of our pharmaceutical products, the Ministry of Health was awarded the ‘Global Anti-Counterfeiting Award 2013’ by the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group Network (GACG).
Ladies and gentlemen,
12. Communicable diseases have remained the bane of humankind but Malaysia has been successful in overcoming many of them in the past, even though infectious diseases such as dengue fever, TB, Malaria, HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and others still pose a threat. However, Non-Communicable Diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases are rearing their ugly heads and becoming more prevalent as Malaysia becomes more affluent. We also have to contend with the burden of mental illness, trauma and road traffic injuries as well as obesity.
13. As with many other countries in the world, Malaysia’s socio-demographics is shifting towards an ageing population. We will become an aged nation in 15 years’ time, when our elderly population aged 60 and above will contribute to 15% of our total population. Thus Malaysia is faced with problems of an ageing population, coupled with the challenges of long term chronic illness as well as new emerging diseases at hand.
14. Malaysia also faces rapid urbanisation, which has created a disparity in healthcare accessibility, not only between the rural and urban areas, but also between the urban poor and urban rich. Increasing needs and demands of the people is certainly challenging to the country. Apart from the problem of congestion and long waiting times, the demand is also driven by the higher expectations of the people and also their higher purchasing power. In addition, rapid advances in medical technology, while potentially increasing health system efficiency can also encourage unnecessary utilization of expensive treatments in the fee-for-service system in the private sector, resulting in substantial cost escalation. Thus, the rising cost of healthcare another key concern of the Government, which needs to ensure that the affordability and accessibility of healthcare are sustainable in the long run.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
15. We are a nation working together for better health and to manage such health issues better, a long-term relationship between the health care giver and recipient is important for us to build trust and also foster mutual partnership in maintaining health. “Health is everybody’s business”, as the saying goes. To address all these challenges and needs, our way forward towards disease prevention and maintaining health to provide for healthier citizens is by focusing on strengthening Primary Health Care (PHC). Primary Health Care is known for its strong focus on preventive and promotive care, which focuses more on maintaining wellness. However, despite our commendable achievements, PHC in Malaysia still has room for improvement. There is still an “over-emphasis” on curative care, which is certainly far less effective in tackling long-term chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma or life-style problems such as obesity, stress and smoking.
16. The Ministry of Health is also preparing a Healthcare Facility Master Plan to overcome the problem of hospital congestion and to better locate new hospitals in the areas that they are most needed, together with a Health Human Resource Master Plan. When we increase the number of beds per population, it also has to be associated with the other infrastructure, such as equipment, other support facilities and the required workforce. We are also looking at developing a Health Human Resource Master Plan, which is intended to identify the projected workforce numbers required, the training and education needs, the career path etc. in order to overcome current shortages and to meet the future needs of the country.
17. Besides the curative aspects, emphasis must also be given to promotive activities. Efforts through health education and promotion will be strengthened so that people and communities take more responsibility for their health. The current and next Malaysia Plan will continue to focus on prevention and promotion in healthcare. Individual and community empowerment will be the emphasis to reduce the exposure to NCD risk factors. In this respect, we recently launched a new initiative called “Komuniti Sihat, Perkasa Negara” or KOSPEN, literally translated as “Empowering Communities, Strengthening the Nation”. It is a Blue Ocean Strategy between the Ministry of Health and other government departments and agencies with existing programmes and activities at the grass-roots levels, for example with the Department of Community Development or KEMAS.
Ladies and gentlemen,
18. I believe that the concerted efforts and cooperation between governments, private sector players and the healthcare system in which they operate, will be beneficial to solving problems and securing a sustainable healthcare model. Addressing all the needs of our citizen will require a comprehensive view of the health sector. This will include inter-sectoral and inter-institutional collaborations related to health, social and economic forces, and a policy and decision-making process that affects health care decisions based on stated national values about health and health services. The mission is to bring Malaysia, and our healthcare system, to the status of high income country by 2020 and this can only be attained if we work together hand in hand as a team….together.
19. Henry Ford, father of the automobile industry, once said and I quote “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”. Unquote.
20. Today, we are coming together, and working together, in the spirit of one of the values of the MOH, i.e. teamwork…. in search of excellence. As Confucius once said, “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence”.
21. It is thus with great pleasure that I declare the 10th Allied Health Scientific Conference officially open.