The increase in cigarette smoking cases, as well as drug abuse and mental health problems among students, are challenging the national health and education systems, said Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.
Lee (photo) said two surveys, namely the Global School-Based Student Health Survey 2012 and Adolescent Health Survey 2017, found that the prevalence of smokers aged between 13 and 17 increased from 11.5 percent to 13.8 percent.
“The prevalence of adolescents who intend to commit suicide also increased from 7.9 percent to 10 percent, while the prevalence of current drug use increased from 1.5 percent to 3.4 percent, apart from obesity and vaping.
“Because of these figures, it is important for health promotion in educational institutions because students are the best capture audience in disseminating health information, whereby when they receive the information, they will pass it to their peers and parents," he said at a forum between the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry in Kuala Lumpur today.
He cited an example, the Young Doctor Programme for 2018, which reached 85 percent of its implementation, and is a testament to the success of education and health promotion activities among pre-school children.
The forum was held in conjunction with the three-day National Health Promotion in Learning Institution (HePiLI) Symposium, with the theme Mobilising Community in Learning Institutions Towards Healthy Lifestyle and was attended by 500 participants, involving teachers and health professionals.
Meanwhile, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said the Education Ministry was also concerned about mental health among students and was working to increase the ratio of counselling teachers to one teacher for 250 primary and secondary students.
Teo said the ministry had also started a pilot project called “Program Ekspresi Anak Remaja Lestari” (PEARL) to help high-risk students with mental health problems.
“We hope that with the (success) of this pilot project, it will be expanded to all schools so that we can work with existing expertise to help those who need more attention," she added.
In another development, Dr Lee said the ministry was studying the electronic cigarette or vape issues through a special committee set up in June.