KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia needs more family medicine specialists to enhance the capability of public health and primary care in the society, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said today.

He said the nearly 500 family medicine specialists serving in public and private facilities nationwide are still far from the actual requirement.

“We need at least 1,500 more family medicine specialists in the next few years to fill the gap. Now, we only produce about 200 family doctors per year,“ he said after launching the 5th Asean Regional Primary Care Conference (Arpac) Kuala Lumpur 2019, here.

Dr Dzulkefly said primary care is important for a wide range of health problems and patients are guided about their health and health care.

“Primary care often refers to physicians with a specialisation in family medicine or general practice which opens opportunities for disease prevention and health promotion as well as early detection of diseases.”

“Therefore, the family medicine fraternity must work harder and continue to promote and encourage young doctors to take up the family medicine specialty as their future carrier pathway in medical practice,“ he said.

Dr Dzulkefly said the government is aware of the need for more qualified family medicine specialists in the country and the ministry, within its capacity, will provide all the necessary support and welcome any collaborative effort in this matter.

The minister also expressed concern over the average lifespan of Malaysians which he said is plateauing compared to the increasing average lifespan of their regional peers.

He said the average lifespan of Malaysians is only 75 to 73 for males and 78 for females, and this is due mainly to non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

“When the average lifespan increases, it means people are leading a better life and are healthy. For us, non-communicable diseases are taking a toll on our health and quality of life,” he said. — Bernama