Monday, March 15, 2010

I Love Me Health Conference: Addressing Modern Women’s Health Concerns

SPEECH by YB Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun
on 14th Mac 2010 at 9am

(pic: CFL)

First and foremost, allow me to take this opportunity to thank the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM) for inviting me to officiate this inaugural “I Love Me Health Conference: Addressing Modern Women’s Health Concerns” today. I would like to congratulate them for their initiative in organizing such a meaningful programme in conjunction with International Women’s Day. This is the first time that I am aware of, that an event of this nature has been held in Kuala Lumpur for the general public.

This conference addresses a very important issue. Women must love themselves and learn to understand the importance of the well-being of their mind and body. Women invariably neglect their health for a range of reasons. Given the multiple roles that women play in the society, preoccupation with their family and career is primarily the most common factor. In a society where roles are very much still pervasively stereotyped, women often internalise and accept the expected role of caring and that the responsibility of caring falls on their shoulders. But we need to empower women that they need to essentially care for themselves for they are the pillars of the family, society and also the nation.

The ‘I Love Me Health Conference’ is a multi-disciplinary event covering key topics on women’s health, such as breast and cervical cancer, heart attack, stress management, menopause, contraception and teenage issues, to name a few. Today you will have the opportunity to listen to 22 medical specialists who will deliver their presentations in non-medical terms with an opportunity for you to ask questions and engage in an interactive Q & A session.

One of the key topics which will be discussed at this conference is women’s cancer. Cervical and breast cancer are two major health issues confronting modern women today, and studies have shown that early detection is indeed possible, resulting in early treatment, leading to a better prognosis of the disease. Cancer detected early can save lives! The latest breakthrough in the prevention of cervical cancer is the development of vaccination against certain types of pathogenic HPVs which would greatly reduce the burden of these diseases.

However, regular screening still plays an important role. Both types of cancer can be detected early by screening such as clinical or self breast examinations to detect breast cancer and pap smears for cervical cancer detection. Unfortunately, not many women come forward to be screened for these two types of cancers. A study conducted by the National Population and Family Development Board in 2004 showed that only 53.2 percent of Malaysian women had ever done breast examination and only 50.6 percent had ever done Pap smear.

Many women are coming to hospitals with advanced cancer after failing to detect it early or after having tried alternative or traditional treatments. Some women seek help late for fear of being stigmatized or due to myths such as cancer only strikes elderly people or that mastectomy means death. There are also women who place their family above their own health and, in some cases; women are not given the choice in their treatment.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development through the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) introduced the mammogram subsidy programme in 2007. Women who are 40 years old and above and those in the high risk group and with household income of RM5,000 or less per month are eligible for the programme. Since its launch till December 2009, 36 private mammogram centres throughout the country including Sabah and Sarawak have registered with LPPKN. These centres have collaborated with LPPKN by providing discounts on referred mammogram examinations. More than 13,000 women had undergone mammogram screening, with 50 cancer cases being detected and 1074 cases referred for further investigations. An amount of RM18 million has been spent by the Ministry to implement this mammogram subsidy programme. Besides this, LPPKN has also organised Health Talks on Breast Cancer Awareness. More than 200 health talks have been conducted and it has benefited about 30,000 women.

Women’s health is our prime concern. Apart from delivering family planning services, LPPKN through our Nur Sejahtera or wellness program, provides reproductive health and general health screening via 53 clinics throughout the country.

To be a healthy adult, first and foremost a woman has to be a healthy child and then a healthy teenager. However, with the increasing trend of unhealthy behaviours amongst our teenagers, the health of our future generation is at stake. Data from the Ministry of Health had shown that the incidence of HIV/AIDS amongst female teenagers and female adults is on the rise and had increased from 1.2% of all new cases reported in 2,000 to 1.68% in 2008.

The incidence of abandoned babies and unwanted pregnancies has also increased at an alarming rate over the years. Statistics from the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) showed that there were 86 abandoned babies a year between 2001 and 2005. Meanwhile, the Welfare Department reported 315 cases between 2001 and 2004. According to the National Registration Department, about 155,000 babies were born out of wedlock among Muslim girls between 2001 and 2004.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has formulated a National Policy and Plan of Action on Reproductive Health and Social Education which was approved by the cabinet on 6th November 2009. The main objective of this Plan of Action is to develop individuals with positive attitudes and behaviour with respect to Reproductive Health and Social values. Good collaboration with various government agencies and NGOs is very crucial in order to realise this goal.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
LPPKN has developed youth friendly centres named kafe @TEEN to address adolescents’ health issues. Since its launch in November 2005, this programme had benefited more than 20,000 adolescents through its present three youth centres in Kuala Lumpur, Lembah Pantai and Butterworth. These kafe@TEEN centres provide clinical and counselling services as well as education and skills building programmes. Regular Health Talks called teen talks or teen chats on topics pertaining to Adolescents’ Reproductive Health Issues which include HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention are regularly conducted at these centres.

LPPKN has also developed two modules to advocate healthy and responsible lifestyles among the young. One of the modules, ‘I am In Control’ which was developed under the UNFPA project will be used in our kafe @TEEN programme. The other module, “Kesejahteraan Hidup” (Wellness in Life) is targeted towards older adolescents in the community.

Ladies & Gentlemen
I hope the topics which will be presented today empower Malaysian women to seek further guidance and advice from trained medical professionals. By attending the conference, you are already in the low risk group for all the medical issues. So give a round of applause to yourselves! I must add that it is very encouraging to see men present at this event as it shows that they truly want to understand and support the women in their lives. Women have their right to health which is a fundamental right to all. It is time for us to act and take proactive measures to ensure every woman is able to enjoy quality and affordable health care services.

Once again, I wish to thank the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM) and A Working Title, the event organiser for all the hard work. It is an honour to be here today to officiate this inaugural conference as I understand they are planning to conduct a similar conference on a larger scale. I would urge the industry to also support this conference on a bigger scale as you have a responsibility to the community especially the women. With that, I hereby declare the first women’s ‘I Love Me’ Health Conference open.

Thank you.

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