Working together to ensure a future with Health For All
Commemoration of World Health Day 2023
The Ministry of Health Malaysia and the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative Office to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore jointly organized a celebration of World Health Day 2023, marking the 75th anniversary of WHO. The event also commemorated 65 years of strong collaboration and partnership between the Government of Malaysia and the organization, providing an opportunity to acknowledge all the important public health milestones achieved throughout the years and to address future challenges in the years to come.
Participants included high-level representatives from across the government and diplomatic corps and featured remarks from the Honourable Minister of Health Malaysia, YB Dr Zaliha Mustafa, the UN Resident Coordinator to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, Ms Karima El Korri and WHO Representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe.
“The pandemic reinforced just how fundamental the provision of equitable access to healthcare is in ensuring that our population is safe and healthy, regardless of citizenship or any other factor. Over the last few decades, much progress has been achieved in public health and we have witnessed even closer collaboration between the government and the World Health Organization as we all work towards the goal of ensuring that all people have equal access to health”, said the Minister of Health, YB Dr Zaliha Mustafa.
Malaysia has tremendously improved numerous health outcomes since its independence. Rates of many vaccine-preventable diseases have dropped significantly because of effective vaccination programmes, the incidence of malaria has dramatically decreased (in fact the country has met the elimination targets for human malaria), meeting the global target on hepatitis B years in advance, the near elimination of lymphatic filariasis and significantly reduced fatalities from dengue fever. The country also continues to make progress within sustainable development goal 3, or SDG 3, “Good Health and Well-Being”, particularly with very high child immunization coverage for diseases under the National Immunization Programme (NIP) and decrease in maternal mortality and under-5 mortality.
Furthermore, Malaysia is committed to achieving Health For All by implementing policies to continually improve the performance of the health system and the full attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The strong political commitment and multi-sectoral efforts have contributed to the success achieved todate and will continue to drive progress.
“Malaysia has made remarkable progress in improving national health outcomes, not the least of which is the achievement of effective universal health coverage in the 1980’s. This is a significant achievement for any country, offering populations financial protection and access to quality care, lifting people out of poverty, promoting the well-being of families and communities, and protecting against public health crises” said Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, and Singapore. “It could not have been accomplished and continued without the perseverance and dedication of Malaysia’s health workforce, the leadership of the government and policy makers, and strong collaboration with national and international partners. These factors will also help us persevere in providing health for all in the face of emerging challenges as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.” added Dr Abeyasinghe.
The broader context of health needs has changed dramatically and given rise to new challenges, including an ageing population, growing disease burden specifically that of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), rising healthcare costs, rapid socioeconomic transition and changing patients’ expectations. Malaysia continues to strive towards maintaining UHC, recognising that health is an investment rather than an expense. Investments in health play a big role in social, economic and overall development of the country, and hence justify efforts to achieve “Health for All” through a whole-of- government approach.
“Health is inextricably linked to everything that we do and even determined by other basic human rights- including access to nutritious foods, adequate housing, safe drinking water and sanitation, education and safe working conditions. The work of the entire UN Family is reflected in the health and wellbeing of the population, and this wellbeing is a core indicator for a prosperous community, society, economy, environment, and other areas of development”, said Ms El Korri, the UN Resident Coordinator to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, and Singapore and continued that “further success requires engagement with a broad range of stakeholders, including CSOs, the private sector and citizens, alongside the public sector in governing and delivering the SDGs, moving toward a whole-of nation action, working to achieve a better future. The United Nations will continue to play a committed part in this future, in strong partnership with the government and the people of Malaysia.”
Another key aspect of a strong health system is health security. Malaysia is recognized globally for its well-established emergency preparedness and response capacities and the importance of these capacities were only emphasized by health emergencies in recent years, from COVID-19 to the polio outbreak. Without health security, Malaysia would have struggled to recover from the intense burden put upon its health system. The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated the importance of health systems resilience and sustainability, which in this case, ensured the sustenance of Malaysia’s UHC and increased the country’s preparedness to potential health threats and overall response.
Ultimately it is evident that strong health systems are vital in ensuring that we are well prepared for any crisis. Malaysia will continue to work closely with WHO to ensure the good Health for all our people, in embracing the true spirit of Universal Health Coverage, leaving no one behind. This embodies the philosophy of MALAYSIA MADANI concept introduced by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that believes in humanity and values such as a fair, just and effective governance.