Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman

KUALA LUMPUR: Tackling diseases that arise from poor sanitation, like food wastage and poor waste and drainage systems, needs a multi-agency effort and should not be a burden shouldered by health authorities alone.

Deputy Health director-general (public health) Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the Health Ministry’s greatest challenge was getting other non-health agencies to treat diseases like leptospirosis, dengue, typhoid and food poisoning as “their babies, their responsibility”.

The ministry, he said, was not responsible for waste disposal and management, drainage system and its maintenance, upkeeping parks, licensing of food outlets and monitoring littering and food wastage behaviour, which were the contributing factors to the problem.

He said the ministry’s principal responsibility lay in treating diseases that resulted from poor sanitation, and to a certain extent, inculcate good hygiene and sanitation habits among the public.

“Other than that, it is beyond the ministry. Unless we address the core issue, leptospirosis will continue to be with us.

“How I wish, the incidence (number of cases reported) of leptospirosis (as well as dengue, typhoid, and food poisoning) is the key performance indicator (KPI) of other non-health agencies responsible for the contributing factors to the problem.

“This includes local authorities, waste management concessionaires, the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry, and Forestry Department.

“Let the Health Ministry’s KPI be based on treatment outcome of the disease, which is our core business.

“Indeed, we have fared well in this. Our mortality rate is low,” he told the New Straits Times.

Based on the ministry’s data from 2010 until last year, the mortality rate for leptospirosis was between 0.16 (year 2012) and 0.31 (year 2014) per 100,000 population.

However, this year, the annualised mortality rate was 0.10 per 100,000 population, which was within
the reported range of mortality globally.

Dr Lokman noted that in Singapore, the Department of Environment was in charge of controlling the spread of dengue cases and not the Health Ministry.

“Maybe that is why they achieved better control, even if we compare the cases geographically between Singapore and the Klang Valley, which is similar in terms of landscape, population density and urbanisation.

“The dengue burden in the Klang Valley is five times higher than in Singapore. Whereas, leptospirosis in Singapore is unheard of,” he said.

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