Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin – 11 August 2023

weekly health bulletin, obesity mental

Medical Channel Asia presents the weekly Asian medical news bulletin, bringing you essential healthcare news from across the region. This week’s bulletin will cover obesity, mental health and more.


Thailand is working on a law to curb advertising of unhealthy food, in response to a rapid increase in childhood obesity. Obesity rates have doubled in the last two decades, with 13.2% of those aged 15 to 18 considered obese. The country has the third-highest rate of obese children among ASEAN countries. The proposed law, known as the “Bill for Protection of Children from Unhealthy Food and Beverages,” will specify safe limits of sugar, fat, and sodium in certain categories of food and beverages, and impose controls on advertising items high in these substances. Violations would result in fines ranging from 10,000 to 300,000 baht. 


The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) in the Philippines is urging the government to increase the starting monthly salary for nurses to P65,000 ($1,340) to discourage them from seeking employment abroad. The proposed measure calls for a raise from the current P36,619 to P63,997. FFW points to a stark disparity in pay between the public and private sectors. Currently, private nurses in some regions earning as low as P431 per day. Manuel Payao, FFW-UERM Employees Union president, has called the wage disparities “severe and unjust”. He emphasised the need to keep skilled nurses in the country. The FFW is also demanding the immediate distribution of Health Emergency Allowances (HEA) to healthcare workers. Some workers have yet to receive the mandated P9,000 per month for their service during the COVID pandemic.


The Rose Programme in Malaysia is offering a new approach to cervical cancer screening, allowing women to perform their own non-invasive tests using a simple swab. Launched by the Rose Foundation, this initiative has screened over 24,000 women, identifying over 194 potential cervical cancer cases. The self-swab method addresses traditional barriers to screening, such as fear and embarrassment, making testing more accessible. The programme aims to empower women and eliminate cervical cancer, a significant health concern in Malaysia. It has received widespread praise and is considered a breakthrough in women’s health in the region.


Vietnam is grappling with a severe shortage of mental health care services. Currently, 14 million people are suffering from mental disorders and only 143 clinical psychologists and psychotherapists available in the country. This is according to a report by the Suc khoe & doi song newspaper. The information was revealed at a recent conference organized by the Department of Medical Service Administration (DMSA). This data highlights the country’s challenges related to an ageing population, neural disabilities, and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on mental health. Additionally, mental health services are not covered by health insurance, and there’s a significant gap in inpatient treatments, with only 9.1% of district-level hospitals providing such services. 


Singapore’s Ministry of Health and the MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation have expanded the Mobile Inpatient Care-at-Home (MIC@Home) program to four additional hospitals. First launched in 2022, the program allows selected patients to receive hospital-standard care at home through “virtual” wards using teleconsultations and home visits. This initiative, now covering more medical conditions. It also aims to offer patients quality care in a comfortable setting and reduce hospital bed usage. Furthermore, it allows integration of technological solutions like remote monitoring.


Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin has met with Elon Musk to explore cooperation between the Indonesian government and Starlink, Musk’s satellite network, aiming to provide internet access to remote health centres across the country. This initiative reflects Indonesia’s efforts to guarantee equal health services, particularly in disadvantaged, frontier, and outermost (3T) areas.

Additionally, according to data from the ministry, out of 10,000 existing local health centres (puskesmas), 2,200 do not have internet access.

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