Environmental Health in Malaysia

Environmental health addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviours. It encompasses the assessment and control of those environmental factors that can potentially affect health. It is targeted towards preventing disease and creating health-supportive environments. This definition excludes behaviour not related to environment, as well as behaviour related to the social and cultural environment, and genetics.

Malaysian society is increasingly urbanised, more populous and more complex. As a consequence, air, water and soil contamination has increased and persistent chemical pollutants have become widespread. In addition, global climate change presents new environmental health hazards. These factors may contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, physiological and neurological disorders, and increased incidences of a range of cancers. With these situations it is necessary for Malaysia to formulate and established the environmental health framework for planning, control and mitigation of the emerging health impacts from new environmental health hazards.

The National Policy on Environment (DOE, 2002), aims at continued economic, social and cultural progress and enhancement of the quality of life of Malaysians through environmentally sound and sustainable development. One of its objectives is to achieve a clean, safe, healthy and productive environment for the present and future generations.

Sustainable development and its relationship to promoting good quality of life are high on the Government development agenda. Central agencies are concerned with the impact of national expenditure on those sectors. The Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department has agreed that NEHAP was to be developed in the 9th Malaysia Plan (MP) by the Ministry of Health. The Engineering Services Division, MOH has been given the task by the Ministry to coordinate the development and implementation of NEHAP which is to commence in the 10th MP.

Gathering of basic information on areas of concern in Malaysian Environmental Health was done and documented in 2007. The documents provide an initial insight into the scope of NEHAP development. In December 2007 the Division had also organised the 1st Malaysian NEHAP Seminar which was attended by relevant stakeholders. A consensus was formed among the participants as to the need for Malaysia to have its NEHAP.

The current status of environmental health related programs/activities that are being implemented by various agencies and stakeholders have been carried out and formed the basis for the formulation of NEHAP. Analysis of the current status included the definition and scope of environmental health in Malaysia, Government policies, programs and activities that have a bearing on:

  1. environmental health;
  2. roles of other stakeholders in influencing environmental health;
  3. identifying those areas related to environmental health that does not receive appropriate attention;
  4. resources and costs that are currently incurred by the Government for the provision of environmental health related programs and activities; and
  5. legal, an administrative and organisational system of implementing and managing environmental health programs and activities.