PETALING JAYA: A former health ministry official has urged the government to reconsider its decision to dissolve the health promotion board known as MySihat, saying it is necessary for the development of a healthy environment.
Dr Zarihah Zain, who used to serve the ministry as a public health specialist, said MySihat served many useful functions, such as in pushing for improved laws and empowering NGOs through grants.
She was reacting to the recent tabling of a parliamentary bill seeking to dissolve the body and to transfer its properties, rights, interests, obligations and liabilities to the government.
Last year, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said the dissolution would come under Putrajaya’s rationalisation effort.
Zarihah told FMT MySihat’s role would likely be taken over by the health ministry’s health education division.
“But MySihat’s functions cannot be duplicated by the division as it does not have certain powers which the law gives MySihat, like the empowering of NGOs and academics through grants,” she said.
“A health promotion body looks at health holistically and my concern is that health promotion would be less effective without it.”
She urged Putrajaya to follow the example of Thailand, which has Thai Health, an autonomous health promotion foundation chaired by the prime minister.
Thai Health’s scope is wide. It works with sports and cultural bodies and NGOs to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Zarihah acknowledged that MySihat was not as holistic as Thai Health, but she said dissolving it was regressive.
She proposed that the government earmark a percentage of sin tax to fund it if financial constraints were the reason for its planned dismantlement.
“Let industries which harm health bear the costs,” she said.
Azrul Mohd Khalib, the CEO of Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, asked whether the health ministry had carried out a review of MySihat before deciding to dissolve it.
“If yes, what were the results of the review?” he said, adding that the government owed the public an explanation for wanting to dismantle one of its taxpayer-funded arms.
He noted that MySihat had been promoting healthy lifestyles and running programmes to prevent non-communicable diseases.
He questioned the wisdom of dissolving MySihat at a time when more and more Malaysians were being afflicted by diseases needing a preventive rather than curative approach.
He said he was concerned that the health ministry had not indicated it would replace MySihat with another programme.