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Quest to improve Malaysian health

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8 April 2011

Desa project
The Desa Mentari project will benefit the community in the long term.

Malaysians’ cultural beliefs, household economics and the geographical locations of healthcare services have a significant impact on existing and new health policies, experts believe.

As an organisation committed to improving the human condition, Monash University Sunway Campus has allocated funding for a pilot project to work with communities in Desa Mentari and Kampung Lindungan in Petaling Jaya.

The project will assess household and community factors that affect the prevention of non-communicable diseases, and will involve a multi-sectoral study examining epidemiological, anthropological, economic, geographical, and sociological factors.

“The aim of this project is to explore the factors that affect healthcare choices in an ethnically-diverse middle-income country with a varied public, private and traditional healthcare system,” the campus’ population health expert Professor Dr Daniel Reidpath said.

The project comes under the umbrella of the South East Asia Community Observatory (SEACO), a new Monash University research platform led by Prof Reidpath, public health expert Professor Pascale Allotey and Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences Director of Curriculum Development and Implementation, Associate Professor Mohamed Shajahan Mohamed Yasin.

SEACO is formed under the School’s Global Public Health research strength and focuses on population health and wellbeing.

“In the absence of this information, policy decisions on the mix of public-private healthcare, and, in the longer term, health systems planning to cope with increasing instances of chronic disease, will be made in a vacuum,” Professor Reidpath said.

SEACO will capture critical data on the health of 5000 residents at Desa Mentari and Kampung Lindungan – the initial phase of which is expected to run over 18 months.

The pilot is the first project undertaken by SEACO, the product of a joint effort between Monash University Australia, Monash University Sunway Campus and the University of Copenhagen. A larger-scale project is in the pipeline.

The project was launched on 12 March by Selangor State Assemblyman for Seri Setia, Yang Berhormat, Mr Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

He expressed gratitude to Monash University Sunway Campus for choosing one of the most densely-populated areas in Petaling Jaya for the pilot project as health was a priority issue in the community.

“Health issues faced by the community here are a major concern as hospitals are located a distance away,” he said.

The Sunway campus’ public health expert Prof Pascale Allotey said the project findings would inform a series of workshops to engage government, community and private healthcare providers to use the data to address the healthcare needs of the community, besides developing healthcare models.

“The findings will also help, in the broader sense, to contribute to national, regional, and global debates on the development of health systems,” she said.

Head of the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences Professor Dato’ Dr Anuar Zaini bin Md Zain said the project would bring the University closer to the people in its immediate area.

“It is important to gather information on population health. Cases of high blood pressure, heart diseases and diabetes are rising fast but one of ways to combat this is to do screenings,” he said.

At the event, Sunway Medical Centre had set up health screening booths while the National Blood Bank received blood donations.