Aung Myint Oo
When we talk about health, these three pillars, viz. promotive, preventive, curative are universal. Prices for them are in ascending order while cost-effectiveness goes opposite way. So, logically it is no brainer as to what should be the top priority. However, life is not always logical. Governments around the world may or may have to give priority to curative and then preventive as opposed to promotive. Even though it’s not the priority, what is important is there must be well-developed strategies with clear-cut paths and its destinies as a result of political commitment and strong will from the governments.
What one can reckon from the past in Myanmar as far as health promotion is concerned; it’s done next to none. Governments may have had some health promotion programme on paper, but little had become visible and tangible. Since the government itself was not convinced there’s no one else pushing the community actively and effectively to adopt the healthy lifestyles as existence and roles of civil societies that truly represent the community are very limited in the past.
However, since 1 April 2016 Myanmar has entered into a new era led by a new government with a very strong mandate from the people of Myanmar. “Time for change”, being a slogan of the new government, strategies and journeys ahead should not be the repetition or reiteration of what have been seen or done before, unless there are good reasons to do so. Health sector shouldn’t be spared in that regard. In fact the change should take place in social sector such as health much earlier than the rest as changes in social sectors very much depend on change of attitudes and behaviours which usually requires much longer time to see its impact.
Having said all above as rationale and background and the fact that the new health minister has briefly mentioned about some health promotional initiatives of health ministry to be carried out jointly with the department of sports and physical education which has become part of the family of the health ministry, there is little doubt that health promotion will be back in the limelight. Enhancing health promotion activities will be the right strategy for the health ministry to attain the millennium goals as everyone knows that curative approach is extremely costly and not efficient and yet unable to eliminate the health problems which are nowadays mostly lifestyle-related.
Although health ministry can be the leading agency, health promotion should be regarded as a national movement which requires a strong political commitment from the whole of government, full support from other agencies regardless of being a public or private and last but not least active participation of the community. Ultimately, setting up a dedicated independent body e.g. “Health Promotion Agency” with all necessary support from the government might be a good start to be able to launch community-based preventive and promotive activities without much of red tapes.
While hoping positively for the government’s initiatives, to be in line with the slogan of the new government which is “Time for change”, I would like to urge fellow citizens to start adopting healthy lifestyles in view of our journey to a happy, healthy and prosperous Myanmar. I also have a little tip to add for those who might need a role model to motivate themselves which is to be envious of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s perfect health reflecting her more-than-perfect physique at her age of seventy years.