Dear Esteemed Friends and Colleagues,
Happy New Year 2020!
As we were all ready to usher in a new year and a new decade, the paediatric fraternity and the medical professionals in Malaysia were shocked to learn from the media that a 3-month old baby boy from Tuaran Sabah was admitted and confirmed to be infected by vaccine-derived polio-virus type 1 on 6 December 2019. Malaysia was declared polio-free 27 years ago, and this case served as a wake-up call to all of us that our efforts in attempting to prevent vaccine- preventable infectious diseases through vaccination have faltered. This is also evident from the rising number of cases of measles and pertussis over the last one decade, not to mention the deaths due to diphtheria.
MPA has many programmes and subcommittees to carry out advocacy work. Despite active advocacy programmes and incessant efforts initiated and carried out by MPA to advocate vaccination in children, immunisation rates of many vaccine-preventable infectious diseases continue to drop and remain low in the underserved population. These have resulted in the re-emergence of previously eradicated or rarely occurring vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, such as measles, pertussis and diphtheria. In 2012, MPA collaborated with MOH and Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy (MSIDC), and launched Immunise4life (IFL) in order to increase awareness, improve immunization coverage and to achieve greater impact. IFL is an expert-driven community education initiative to promote immunisation for all ages against vaccine-preventable diseases.
State Subcommittees & Task Forces
Members can consider active engagement through IFL or through the various state subcommittees of MPA. MPA provides RM5,000 annually for these state subcommittees to carry out CME or child health advocacy programmes. You can contact the chairperson of your state subcommittees to engage in these activities. A list of MPA state subcommittees and task-force with the respective chairpersons is provided in this issue of BMPA for your reference.
Immunisation rates of >95% in a community may not be achieved without reaching out to the underserved children, ie the poor, the marginalised, the rural population, Orang Asli in Peninsular, the indigenous of Sabah & Sarawak, the immigrants and the refugees. In the state of Perak and Selangor, medical camps are conducted regularly for some refugee children with financial aid from Malaysian Paediatric Foundation (MPF). I encourage members from other states to initiate similar programmes for the underserved children in your state.
Besides immunisation, the other major health issue that plagued Malaysia, a middle-income country, is non-communicable diseases, in particular malnutrition. Malaysia has the double burden of malnutrition where undernutrition coexists with overweight and obesity. Undernutrition early in life – and even in utero (the first 1000 days) – can predispose to overweight and obesity and non- communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease later in life. In 2014, Malaysia had the highest number of overweight and obese children in SEA region. We need to address this issue urgently, not only to achieve Sustainable Development Goal targets, but to ensure a healthy and productive population.
Lack of healthy lifestyle from young is the main culprit. MPA together with NNI initiated the ProtFit Clinic Program which you can use as the program is designed to promote healthy and active lifestyle. You can access the ProtFit Clinic Program in the MPA website. This site contains materials and tools that provide you with information and tips on how to manage and combat childhood obesity in your clinic setting for children between 6 months and 6 years. You can also empower parents to monitor the growth of their child by downloading the free Growth Journey app for children between 2-18 years old.
Combatting the 2 issues above needs multi-pronged efforts, inter-ministerial collaboration and participation from all stakeholders. If you have any advocacy programs or research proposal, you may submit a proposal complete with budget requirement to MPA for consideration and support.
As we usher in a new decade, I hope that MPA, the paediatric fraternity, government agencies, and other NGOs are able to collaborate and perform better in our advocacy work towards promoting child health.
Best wishes for the New Year and the new decade 2020!!
Hung Liang Choo