Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin – 17 March 2023


Medical Channel Asia presents the weekly Asian medical news bulletin, bringing you essential healthcare news from across the region. 

This week, we cover Indonesia’s Health Bill and transformation efforts. We also look at Malaysia’s focus on unhealthy lifestyles, Vietnam’s health-tech revolution in improving healthcare services & more.


The Philippine government’s health spending lags behind other ASEAN countries, with the country’s public health spending per capita at just $60 in 2019, significantly lower than its regional peers, according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

Meanwhile, Filipino cancer patients and their families face an annual financial burden of Php 35.3 billion, driven by direct healthcare costs and lost wages, primarily due to premature cancer deaths. Consequently, PIDS urges increased public spending on healthcare and the implementation of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA). This will improve outcomes and reduce the economic impact.


The North West Community Development Council (NWCDC) in Singapore has launched an initiative to train 36 grassroots leaders as mental wellness ambassadors in the North West District. These ambassadors will help identify and engage residents facing mental health issues. They will offer a first layer of support and ensure they have access to relevant services early. The Mental Wellness @ North West programme includes a support network of grassroots organizations, social service agencies, schools, and healthcare providers. Ambassadors will undergo training by Care Corner and can attend advanced training and refresher courses during their two-year appointment.


Rising air pollution in Thailand has led to nearly 200,000 hospitalizations in the past week, with Bangkok being the worst affected city. Around 1.3 million people in the country are suffering from various respiratory issues. This is due to deteriorating air quality, caused by vehicular pollution, industrial emissions, and agricultural burning. Therefore, the Thai government has advised children and pregnant women to stay indoors and companies to offer work-from-home options for employees. Additionally, nurseries have set up special “no dust rooms” with air purifiers. Finally, checkpoints have been established to control vehicular pollution.


Former Malaysian deputy health minister Dr. Lee Boon Chye and the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) have supported comments made by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof on the consequences of leading unhealthy lifestyles. Fadillah highlighted that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are lifestyle-related and contributing to public hospital congestion. The World Health Organization reported that NCDs are the main cause of death and disability in Malaysia, straining the public medical system. Dr. Lee suggested online consultations for minor illnesses. Meanwhile the MMA president, Dr. Muruga Raj Rajathurai, emphasized the need for more education on healthy lifestyles for disease prevention.


The Vietnamese government prioritizes healthcare in its national digital transformation strategy, leading to improvements in public healthcare. Healthtech startups in Vietnam, such as eDoctor, Mosia, Jio Health, BuyMed, and Bsgiadinh, are leveraging AI and other technologies to improve healthcare services. With increased support and investment, the future of med-tech development in Vietnam is promising. If done right, it will make people’s lives more convenient and optimize medical facilities’ operations.


Indonesia’s Ministry of Health is optimistic that the upcoming Health Bill will improve the country’s health system. The six pillars of Indonesia’s health transformation include primary services transformation, referral service transformation, health system resilience transformation, health financing system transformation, health human resources transformation, and health technologies transformation. The House of Representatives and stakeholders are actively discussing the Health Bill to enhance and improve the nation’s health services. Despite a small percentage of Indonesians seeking medical treatment abroad, the Health Ministry sees this as an opportunity to investigate and address issues in Indonesia’s health services.

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