Multisectoral involvement crucial in promoting public health, equity – Wan Azizah

Patron of PUSPANITA, Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah (centre) at the launch of the Etiqa and Rose Foundation’s Cervical Screening Programme Phase 3 on Tuesday, January 10.

PETALING JAYA, Jan 11 – Collaboration between various stakeholder groups and sectors to promote public health and address health equity must be encouraged as this will be crucial to achieving better health for everyone including the workforce of the country, said Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah, Patron of Puspanita (Wives of Civil Servants and Women Civil Servants Association).

Wan Azizah, who launched the Etiqa and Rose Foundation’s free Cervical Screening Programme (3rd Phase) here on Tuesday, commended the tie-up for their successful continuation of the screening programme since 2019.

Under the third phase, with funding by Etiqa and implementation by Rose Foundation, the one-year and RM1.22 million worth nationwide programme, is aimed at screening 5,500 eligible women aged 30 to 65 from identified B40 communities.

Saying, she was looking forward to a healthier self, family, society, and country in 2023, Wan Azizah, who had also launched the first phase of the ROSE Cervical Screening Programme in 2019, added there was a need to strengthen the health of the country’s workforce as well, especially the frontliners.

She noted how the screening programme had been extended close to 12,000 frontliners including police, armies, healthcare professionals when the country was busy battling the Covid-19 pandemic and called on members of Puspanita to look into more collaborations for such similar health programmes.

In her speech, Chair of Rose Foundation, Professor Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, thanked Dr. Wan Azizah for her continued support of the programme as well as Etiqa for its sponsorship of the Mobile Colposcopy equipment in the phase three of the screening programme.

The equipment will enable the volunteer medical teams to travel to rural/interior communities and screen as well as start onsite colposcopy treatment on women who test positive but decline for various reasons to travel out for treatment from these areas.

Since the inception of the screening programme in 2019, eligible women have been tested using an innovative cervical screening approach that offers a simple self-swab, that is quick, simple, and painless which is unlike the conventional pap test.

Samples are then sent to the laboratory for human papillomavirus (HPV) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing with the results communicated via SMS within three weeks. Women who test positive for HPV, will be referred to government hospitals for follow-up.

“Rated as the third most common cancer amongst women in Malaysia, cervical cancer can be a preventable cancer, provided early and appropriate screening and treatment are administered,” Dr Adeeba said.

The programme embraces all aspects of cervical cancer screening that integrates self-sampling, primary HPV testing and digital health platform using mobile technology and ensuring women who require follow-up are linked to care for treatment.

As at end of Dec 2022, the programme has screened over 21,000 women nationwide including over 13,500 women from identified B40 communities in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, with 1,210 positive cases detected and over 90 percent of them linked to care.

Datuk R. Karunakaran, Chairman of Maybank Ageas Holdings Berhad the parent company of Etiqa, said the company will continue to play its role as an agent of change in eliminating the third most common cancer amongst women in Malaysia.

‘We hope to reach more Malaysian women and their family members by providing accessible screening and a treatment facility. With proper intervention, we believe cervical cancer among Malaysian women can be eliminated and save lives.”

Also present at the event were Paul Low Hong Ceong, Chief Executive Officer of Etiqa Life Insurance Berhad, Professor Dr Woo Yin Ling, Founder and Trustee of ROSE Foundation, and Puan Seri Norizam binti Che Mohd Nor, Chief of Puspanita.

— WE