KUALA LUMPUR – AstraZeneca, a global science-led biopharmaceutical company, launched its Young Health Programme through a partnership with Hospitals Beyond Boundaries (HBB), focusing on youth and the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Held in conjunction with AstraZeneca’s 40th Anniversary in Malaysia, the Young Health Programme was launched on World Mental Health Day with a pilot programme on youths’ mental health, targeted at the adolescent residents of PPR Seri Pantai. HBB was chosen as a partner as it is a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the health of vulnerable communities through sustainable healthcare efforts in non-communicable diseases.
Present at the event were Dr Sanjeev Panchal, Country President, AstraZeneca Malaysia and Dr Wan Abdul Hannan Wan Ibadullah, Co-founder & CEO of Hospitals Beyond Boundaries. They were accompanied by Puan Tursiah Tino, Chairman of the PPR Seri Pantai Residents Association. The event had the support of social welfare officers from the Social Welfare Department and saw the attendance of Datuk Ramlan Askolani, the Federal Territories Minister’s Special Tasks Officer. Residents had attended the event in batches to avoid crowds and ensure that SOPs could be observed.
The AstraZeneca Young Health Programme is a global programme currently being rolled out in Malaysia to focus on adolescent mental health and well-being. The programme aims to improve health and well-being among young people aged 10-24, getting them to take control of their health, especially to manage long-term conditions including mental ill health. This local community investment programme focusing on youth and mental health demonstrates AstraZeneca’s commitment to the local community and society’s health at large.
Adolescent mental health was chosen as the focus topic in view of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated mental health challenges among Malaysians. In Malaysia, suicide statistics released by the police revealed that 872 or half of the cases recorded between January 2019 and May 2021 involved adolescents aged between 15 and 18, while the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey had found that 424,000 children in Malaysia faced mental health issues.
Commenting on the launch of the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme, Dr Sanjeev said, “Under our Young Health Programme, we are honoured to partner with Hospitals Beyond Boundaries. They have done remarkable work in Malaysia and around the region to uplift the health of our most disadvantaged community members, making them an ideal partner for AstraZeneca’s aim to improve the health outcomes for society. Our adolescents remain among the most vulnerable members of society and their mental health and well-being has suffered amidst the enforced isolation and loss of school attendance from lockdown measures. To address this, we are excited to kick-off our Young Health Programme in partnership with Hospitals Beyond Boundaries.”
At the Young Health Programme kick-off at PPR Seri Pantai, 200 Mental Health Kits were distributed to the young residents – containing information on mental health and tools for activities like exercise and gardening that can help improve mental wellness. In the coming months, AstraZeneca will be working with Hospitals Beyond Boundaries to run further initiatives to support NCD awareness amongst youths in the Klang Valley and around Malaysia, giving them greater capacity to make informed decisions about their health.
Dr Wan Abdul Hannan Wan Ibadullah, Co-founder & CEO of Hospitals Beyond Boundaries commented, “We are pleased to collaborate with AstraZeneca for the Young Health Programme focusing on adolescent mental health. In Malaysia, mental health overall is often overlooked, and it is certainly also true among adolescents and vulnerable communities. Our work shows us how events that impact society broadly – like the pandemic, often hit vulnerable communities and young people in ways that may not be visible to other Malaysians. In this partnership with AstraZeneca, we hope to have a sustained positive impact that will improve many lives.”
Globally, the Young Health Programme has reached more than five million youths in 30 countries across six continents since it was launched in 2010. In 2018, the Young Health Programme was recognised by Ethical Corporate when it was named Community Investment Programme of the Year in the Responsible Business Awards.
Four Decades of Excellence in Malaysia
Commenting on AstraZeneca’s 40 years in Malaysia, Dr Sanjeev said, “AstraZeneca is proud to be part of Malaysia’s strong healthcare heritage and to have been a partner in the country’s healthcare development since 1981. The 40th year milestone opens a new chapter for us in Malaysia as we continue to go beyond the pill by working alongside partners to strengthen the health ecosystem and drive the digitalisation of healthcare with innovative solutions. Beyond that, we believe that it will take more than medicines alone to tackle the disease challenges of the future. Preventive measures and a focus on mental health are certainly part of a future-centric outlook.”
AstraZeneca’s presence in Malaysia began when it was first licensed in 1981 under Astra Malaysia. The global merger in 1999 between two pharmaceuticals, Astra and Zeneca, then opened up a new chapter of growth for AstraZeneca in Malaysia.
In line with the government’s National Strategic Plan for Non-Communicable Disease 2016-2025, AstraZeneca in 2019 made a commitment to invest RM500 million over the next five years to support innovation, healthcare collaborations, talent development and a Global Business Services hub to support the Asia Pacific region.
Over the past one and a half years, AstraZeneca has demonstrated this commitment by strengthening the healthcare ecosystem at the primary care level through various partnerships established with the government, academia, NGOs, societies, industry players and healthcare practitioners. This includes the establishment of the first Health Innovation Hub in the country to enable start-ups to create new innovative digital healthcare solutions and the Lung Ambition Programme for the early diagnostics of lung cancer. Another example is the TakeCareofMe sustainable programme for diabetes which features advanced diagnostics starting at the primary care level for the diagnosis of cardio-renal complications from Type-2 diabetes.