MoH pushes ahead in uphill battle against NCDs

James Kon

The Ministry of Health (MoH) will constantly monitor and control non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, which are still the leading causes of death in the country.

Statistics on NCD incidences are still at an alarming level and show a minimal rate of decline. In this case, the MoH will continue to aggressively pursue efforts to help ensure citizens and residents enjoy a high quality of life, are productive and are able to contribute to national development.

The established Multi-Sectoral Taskforce on Health Committee will carry on implementing strategies and work plans in identified priority areas. With regard to the strategies outlined in the National Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (BruMAP NCD), to date, 70 per cent of initiatives have been achieved or are being implemented.

The ministry’s commitment towards NCD reduction was highlighted by Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during his budget deliberation at the 10th day of the Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday.

“Various efforts have been made to reduce the NCD rate in the country, which were shared at the last National Assembly session. The National Non-Communicable Diseases Screening Programme will continue to be conducted for the early detection of NCDs among the target group. Undeniably, the COVID-19 outbreak has to some extent affected the progress of the implementation of this programme. However, the programme will continue again this year. Therefore, those who comprise the target group for this National Screening Programme are welcome to register and undergo screening tests and take the opportunity to detect any disease before it is too late,” Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said.

The worrying issue of mental illness was also addressed.

“The problem of mental illness needs to be given attention because it can affect the development of the country. Statistics of experiencing mental stress are at a high. The total number of calls to Talian Harapan 145 (set up on February 12, 2019 as a helpline for the distressed) was 2,278 in 2019, and 2,474 calls from January to October 2020,” he said.

Additionally, three main focus in promoting mental health were carried out by the MoH and other agencies, namely Bully Free Brunei programme (school-based) that targets students in schools; i-Minda programme (workplace based) for mental health in workplace; and Jaga Minda Kita programme (community based) held at public places such as shopping malls, schools, mosques and others. The care and treatment of mental health in hospital are also given importance in prevention of mental illness.”

To maintain public well-being at the work place, he said, “Workplace and Health 2.0 (WAH) in collaboration with Gleneagles JPMC encourages the workplace to provide an environment and action that support employees to be more active, adopt a healthy diet, be smoke-free and have good mental well-being. This includes ensuring the environment is safe and free from unhealthy disturbances that can negatively impact the health of employees, both physically and mentally.”

The MoH is aware of the issue of unhealthy eating habits. The minister welcomed the LegCo members’ recommendations to take stricter measures against the sale of unhealthy foods, such as the introducing of tax on salt and unhealthy foods.

“This recommendation is reasonable because the MoH takes very seriously dietary trends among the people of Brunei, especially those who are vulnerable such as children who do not understand the health effects of unhealthy eating.

“The MoH launched the Code on Responsible Marketing of Food and Beverages to Children in Brunei Darussalam on March 9, 2021 aimed at protecting children from being exposed to advertisements and promotion of unhealthy food and beverages,” Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said.

The implementation of policies as well as regulations requires effective enforcement, and the minister welcomedthe LegCo members’ proposals to consolidate human resources for the enforcement of laws and government policies and regulations currently being considered by the MoH.

“The MoH is reviewing several acts to ensure that enforcement efforts can be implemented effectively, which include the Tobacco Order, 2005 to address the issue of smoking that is still prevalent. The MoH will continue to do its utmost to enforce all laws under this ministry, in line with national requirements and international standards,” he said.