PETALING JAYA: Generally low health literacy among Malaysians contributes to alarming rate of serious illness in the country, expert says.
Explaining this, a professor at the Tan Sri Omar Center for STI (Science, Technology and Innovation) Policy Studies, Datuk Dr Ahmad Ibrahim, said that lack of health knowledge is preventing many Malaysians from managing their illnesses well.
He said a recent two-country study called Respond that looked at the incidence of hypertension among B40s in Malaysia and the Philippines found that many still had a poor understanding of how best to manage hypertension.
“As part of efforts to share the results of the study with the public, in particular the B40 group, a webinar was organized.
“But judging by their questions, many still have a poor understanding of how best to manage hypertension,” Professor Ahmad said.
“A lot of them thought that hypertension could be cured. It can only be managed and they don’t understand that it’s a lifelong disease that requires you to take medicine forever.
The same study found that about 14% of B40 hypertensive patients know about the disease, about 80% have some idea of it, while about 3% are unaware of the disease.
Prof Ahmad said the problem of low health literacy and lack of knowledge about other diseases cuts across all levels of Malaysian society.
Low health literacy is actually more apparent with the Covid-19 pandemic, which brings very clear evidence when a segment of Malaysians doubt the efficacy of the vaccine, he said.
“(Poor health literacy) explains why people are hesitant to get vaccinated because they don’t really understand and can be swayed by stories on social media – stories like vaccines causing certain effects or that it can remain in them forever,” he added.
Respond lead researcher from Universiti Teknologi Mara, Dr Nafiza Mat Nasir, said the study found that while hypertensive patients were generally aware of their condition, they thought it was not a a “chronic disease”. “When we ask them about hypertension, they can provide us with answers and have the knowledge, there are some parts they are a bit confused about, but overall their knowledge is good. The only thing , is that they did not think that hypertension was a chronic disease.
“It’s something we should be concerned about because they might not manage their disease well because of it,” said the professor of medicine and family medicine expert.
Dr Nafiza said that, based on his experience, even with knowledge, trying to convince patients to change their lifestyle was not easy.
Pahang Director of Health, Datuk, Dr Nor Azimi Yunus said there were still pockets of the community in the state who were unaware of the role and importance of the Covid-19 vaccine. 19 despite ongoing sensitization, education, and advocacy by health care providers.
“Based on a survey conducted by the Pahang State Health Department on PICKids (National Covid-19 Immunization Program for Children) in February, nearly 70% of survey respondents agreed that they had received information about the vaccine from the Ministry of Health, but only one-third of them agreed that the vaccine is effective.
“They prefer to wait and see or they are too afraid of side effects as others claim.”