In conjunction with World Mental Health Day and 40years of establishment in Malaysia, multinational biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca (AZ) has launched a pilot programme on youth mental health, to raise awareness for non-communicable diseases (NCD) and promote mental health amongst youth in vulnerable communities. The “AZ Young Health Programme” was launched through a partnership with Hospitals Beyond Boundaries (HBB) Malaysia, targeted at the adolescent residents of PPR Seri Pantai, Kuala Lumpur.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health challenges among many Malaysians: suicide statistics released by the national police department revealed that at least 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 found that 424,000 children in Malaysia face mental health issues.
Considering this impact, AZ Young Health Programme was introduced as a local community investment programme in Malaysia that will focus on adolescent mental health and well-being. The programme will cater to those aged 10-24 at PPR Seri Pantai by getting them to take control of their health, especially to manage long-term conditions including mental ill health.
At the programme kick-off, 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, AZ will be working with HBB – a nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving the health of impoverished communities through sustainable healthcare efforts in NCD – 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. Sanjeev Panchal, Country President, AstraZeneca Malaysia, spoke highly of the programme during the launch event. “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. 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.”
Similarly, Dr. Wan Abdul Hannan Wan Ibadullah, Co-founder & CEO of Hospitals Beyond Boundaries, commented, “[In Malaysia], mental health 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.”
The AZ Young Health Programme is a global effort that has successfully reached more than 5 million youths in 30 countries across 6 continents and received numerous accolades. It was launched in 2010.
Back in 2019, AZ 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, which fell in line with the Malaysia’s National Strategic Plan for Non-Communicable Disease 2016-2025 – AZ demonstrated this commitment through various partnerships established with the government, academia, NGOs, societies, industry players and healthcare practitioners.
On AZ’s 40th year milestone in Malaysia, Dr. Sanjeev believes a “new chapter” is in the works, “We [will] 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.”