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TitleHealth 2017
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Page 2



hailand which is Myanmar’s
immediate neighbour, yearly earns
millions of foreign currency from

overseas patients by providing them with
international standard treatments and its
state-of-the-art medical facilities where as
Myanmar due to lack of human resources and
finance makes it is difficult even to cover the
local healthcare sector.

According to the ASEAN healthcare
communiqué, some ASEAN member
countries receive assistance to provide
international standard healthcare compared
to some western nations so health services
are even much cheaper. Therefore, these
countries yearly receive millions of dollars
from overseas patients who come for
medical treatment.

Thailand’s medical tourism earns US$ 2
billion per year which is about 40 percent of
other ASEAN counties health tourism sector.

Although questions were raised at
Hluttaw sessions regarding healthcare, reply
from the concerned ministry was that not to
mention medical tourism, at present even to
cover healthcare for the citizens are unable
due to constraints of financial and human
resource, meaning healthcare workers.

Currently, even expanding township level
hospitals to provide medical cover to the
rural populace are difficult, hospitals in
towns and cities are also facing difficulties
to appoint sufficient amount of doctors
says Dr. Myint Htwe, Union Minister for
Health and Sports.

“Construction of new hospitals,
extending and renovating existing hospitals,
constructing service apartments and building
new 16-bed sub township hospitals all depend
on the budget allocated. In this process
approximately about 40 sub township
hospitals can be constructed during a
financial year,” Dr. Myint Htwe, Union
Minister for Health and Sports explained
to the Pyithu Hlauttaw session on June 5.
Doctors who have to serve in far-flung areas
such as border areas face difficulties for

dwelling, so the cost of
building living


for them have to also be added in the
budget,” the Union Minister added.

Hluttaw MPs usually raise questions based
on the difficulties that their constituencies
are facing such as to extend rural medical
centers, to appoint more midwives and nurses
and also to provide sufficient amount of
doctors, medicines and medical equipment
to towns. Even in Yamethin, the nearest
township to Nay Pyi Taw does not have a sub
township hospital so people who dwell in
rural areas face much difficulties in receiving
medical treatment and even lose their lives
said U Tun Tun Win, Hluttaw MP of Yamethin

U Zone Teint, another Pyithu Hlauttaw
MP from Chi Phwe township in Kachin
State said that although there is a 500 bed
hospital in Myitkyina for the whole state,
there are no specialists to treat patients
so people feel very sad and in times of
emergency, they always have to travel to
either Mandalay or Yangon for medical
treatment which cost them a fortune.

“ For instance, there are no specialists
such as neurologists, cardiologists,
gastroenterologists and urologists in this
hospital, so patients have to travel either to
Mandalay or Yangon for treatment but as
travel expense, hospital fees etc..are so high
some even cannot afford to go and have to
give up their lives” said a native who had
experienced this kind of situation.

The Union Minister said that there are still
many difficulties to fulfill the health services
of the states and regions. “If I have to be
straightforward, when a state or region request
for a 500 bed hospital another state or region
also raises the same request. Therefore due to
the actual situation, when a 500 bed hospital is
provided, together with the hospital, medicines
and medical equipment can be provided.
However, it is impossible to provide human
resource such as doctors, technicians to that
hospital immediately. Although the situation is
obvious it is difficult to fulfill it.”

Therefore the Ministry is nurturing more
specialists. For this year 2017, there are
plans to nurture 642 specialists, 820 in
2018 and 767 in 2019. Although previously
there were plans to increase the human
resource such as specialist, this plan was
not implemented.

Nevertheless, plans have been
drawn up for the years 2018-


At present, there are five 200 bed region
and state level hospitals, 10 central level
hospitals and 30 specialist hospitals. There
are also 1123 township and sub township
hospitals in Myanmar. Although the WHO
indicates that it is necessary to have three
beds for every 1000 patients, it is still
unclear that how many beds are there for
patients in a country like Myanmar with a
population of about 51 million.

According the 2015 statistics of the WHO,
in countries that are low in development,
fundamental healthcare and prevention
for a person is approximately US$60 but in
Myanmar the allocation for the Ministry of
Health and Sports is only just K1000 billion
says Dr. San Shwe Win, Pyithu Hluttaw
MP of Yekyi Township in the Ayeyarwaddy

So if calculated with the allocated budget,
the health expenditure for a person would
only be US$20.

However, since the fiscal year 2011-
2012, the government has increased the
expenditure of the healthcare sector.
According to the approved statistics

K86.581billion for 2011-2012, K381.254
billion for 2012-2013, K484.383

billion for 2013-2014,

billion for 2014-2015, K840.976 billion for
2015-2016, K831.052 billion for 2016-2017
and for the current 2017-2018 financial year
K1077 billion has been allocated.

As for Malaysia, the healthcare
expenditure in 2013 was US$13.7 billion
and is expected to rise to US$22.9 billion
in 2018. In the case of Singapore in 2015,
11 percent of the GDP, which amounts to
S$76.9 billion, was allocated for the health
sector. Although the expenditure for the
health sector of those countries are much
higher than Myanmar, there are healthcare
tourism which support their health sectors.
During 2015, there were 600000 health
related tourists who visited Malaysia where
the country received millions of US dollars.
In the Philippines, the government and the
private sector are working to together as
Public-Private Partnership(PPP) to raise the
healthcare sector. Similarly in Myanmar, a
health insurance system should be set up to
relieve the burden of the public said Dr. San
Shwe Win.

“Change in social-economic system,
increase of growth rate, occurrence in
new types of diseases, lack of healthcare
knowledge, scarce in health funds and lack
of medicines are factors that directly affect
the public. So when this kind of situation
arises people have to bare about 80 percent
of the total cost which is a burden for them.
Therefore, a system which can effectively
support the government’s healthcare system
and provide necessary healthcare to the
public, some kind of a health insurance
scheme should be set up,” he said.

“Myanmar’s healthcare expenditure
is only five percent of the total budget
and is far more behind the expenditure
of other low-income countries where
their expenditure is nine percent. A lot
of fatalities happen due to unaffordable
treatment cost,” says U Win Win, Hluttaw
MP of Ingapu Township in the Ayayarwaddy
Region who commented on the burden
people face in their daily lives regarding
health matters.

Translation by Khine Thazin Han,
Kyaw Soe Htet and Zar Zar Soe

Finance and human resource effecting
Myanmar’s healthcare sector

The Yangon Children’s Hospital (YCH) is a major public hospital in Yangon.

Emergency assistance provided to a patient in an ambulance. Photos: Zarni Phyo

Page 8


Fingertip Oximeter



Available at:

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Market Place by
City Mart

No. 22, Pyay Road, Mayangone Tsp,
Yangon. Tel: 01-664363

Yee Shin Co., Ltd.
No. 25-26, Bogyoke Aung San Rd,
Bahosi Housing, Lanmadaw Tsp,
Yangon. Tel: 01-211915

Page 9


T3 treadmill with track
connect console

Baby Drops

E5 elliptical with track
connect console

C3 upright bike with track
connect console

G7 multi gym

USD 3664 USD 4944 USD 2596 USD 3795

Available at:

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And Recreation Aisa
(Myanmar) Ltd.

Star City, Kyaik Khauk
Pagoda Road, Building
A-2, Wing-C, Unit# 57-
72, Thanlyin Township,
Yangon, Myanmar.
Tel: 056 23224
Ext: 1303

Available at:

Grand Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
No. 15/19. Zawgyi St, Lanmadaw Tsp,
Yangon. Tel: 01-221997

No 296, A-12, Ayeyarwon Road, Thaketa Township,
Yangon. Tel: 01-551591

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Yangon. Tel: 09-73222365

Available at:


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Page 15



hoosing foods each day that are rich in vitamins and
minerals is the best way your body is receiving what
needs to be healthy. Supplements can be beneficial, but

the key to vitamin and mineral success is by comsuming a
balanced diet.

Vitamins are organic compounds necessary for the healthy
functioning of our bodies. We need vitamins to help us grow,
to make out bones, muscles, skin and organs strong as well as
to protect from infections. Deficiencies in vitamins can become
serious problems to our bodies. The best way to receive
enough vitamins for a normal growth and development comes
from the fresh foods that we consume daily.

Vitamins are classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble.
In human beings, there are thirteen vitamins: four fat-soluble
(A, D, E, and K) and nine water-soluble (eight B vitamins and
vitamin C). Water-soluble vitamins dissolve easily in water
and, in general, are readily excreted from the body. Therefore,
vitamin consumption can be indicated by urine output. Many
types of water-soluble vitamins are produced by bacteria. Fat-
soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with
the help of fats.

The best way to get enough vitamins is to eat a balanced
diet with a variety of healthy foods. In some cases, one may
need to take vitamin as supplements. However it should bear
in mind that sometimes high doses of vitamins can cause
health problems.

Vitamin A, from the fat-soluble category can be obtained
by consuming liver, fish, orange, ripe yellow fruits, leafy

vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, squash, spinach, soya milk,
milk products such as butter and cheese. Vitamin A, not only
prevents night blindness but also lower the mortality rate of

Another fat-soluble vitamin is Vitamin D, which can be
obtained from fish, eggs, liver, mushrooms, cod liver oil, oily
fish, fish roe, Sardine, Tilapia, Tuna , Cereals, Tofu, low fat
fruit yogurt, and various kinds of milks. Vitamin D increases
intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate,
and zinc. Vitamin D can prevent heart disease, diabetes,
obesity, muscle weakness to name a few.

Vitamin E can prevent cancer, heart diseases, eye disorder
and prevent or slow the decline of mental function such as
Alzheimer’s disease. A variety of foods such as vegetable oils
like safflower oils and soybean oils, Nuts, such as peanuts,
hazelnuts, and, almonds and seeds like sunflower seeds, green
vegetables, which are spinach and broccoli, fruits like mangoes
and Papayas are also among the best sources of vitamin E.

Vitamin K, which is also a fat-soluble vitamin helps to
prevent calcification of arteries which is one of the
leading causes of heart attacks. It works by carrying
calcium out of the arteries and not allowing it to form
hard plaques within the arteries. It also increases the
amount of protein required to maintain bone calcium,
reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Vitamin K is also effective in reducing the risk of prostate,
colon, stomach, nasal, and oral cancers. Vitamin K is found
plentiful in green vegetables such as spinach, swiss chard,
lettuce, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels
sprouts and some fruits such as avocado, kiwifruit and grapes,

which are also high in vitamin K.
In the category of water-soluble vitamins there are Vitamin

B and Vitamin C. Vitamin B play important roles in cell
metabolism. There are eight types of vitamin Bs. B vitamins
are particularly concentrated in meat such as turkey, tuna and
liver. Other sources for B vitamins include pulses or beans,
whole grains, potatoes, bananas, chili, peppers, nutritional
yeast, brewer’s yeast, and molasses.

Another water-soluble vitamin, which is Vitamin C is found
in food and used as a dietary supplement. Vitamin C helps to
repair and regenerate tissues, protect against heart disease,
decrease bad cholesterol and common cold. Vitamin C is
important in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

As many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, it is
easy to obtain through foods. Apples, asparagus, berries,
broccoli, cabbage, melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon),
cauliflower, citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges), kiwi,
fortified foods (breads, grains, cereal), dark leafy greens (kale,
spinach),peppers (especially red bell peppers, which have
among the highest per-serving vitamin C content.

However, if one consumes healthy and well-balanced food,
vitamins would not be necessary. A well-constructed diet
supplies not only provide the vitamins which are needed
daily, but also other important non-nutrients that are lack in

Therefore, it is possible to conclude that vitamins are really
good, because they help us keep our body in shape providing it
with lacking elements but by consuming a balance diet we will
be able to get sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals the
natural way.

Consuming well-balanced healthy food provides
most vitamins a human body needs

A layout of healthy and delicious home-made dishes. Photo: The Myanmar Times



Page 16



aw A Nge Lay said her elderly mother
has to take some unknown mixed
medicines for common ailments. She

added that these unidentified mixed medicines
are usually taken to alleviate headache and flu
symptoms as they are cheap, effective and eas-
ily available from local drugstores.

“They are not to treat serious illness. If I feel
ill, I just take some mixed medicines sold in my
ward. The bad thing is I don’t know what types
of medicines are mixed together. I don’t even
know if these medicines are expired or whether
I am allergic to it. The good thing is I can buy
them easily,” she said.

It has been more than a decade-long habit of
the people of Myanmar to take some unknown
mixed medicines prescribed by small shop and
stores in the neighbourhood to treat common

cold and cough, for temporary or long-term.
Some combined medicines are branded as
Myanmar traditional medicines and sold on the
market. Some are found to contain oral steroids
in powder form. The combined medicines are
cost effective, easily available and are widely
used as most ill-informed people are reluctant
to go to the clinics or hospitals unless they have
some deadly disease.

The combined medicines alleviate symptoms
of disease temporarily without addressing
the underlying causes. Most people used the
combined medicines because they think they
are cured as the symptoms disappear.

“The combined medicines are very dangerous.
Although they are bad, people are still taking
them because they are cheap, easily bought, and
fast to relieve the symptoms. People are aware
that combined medicines are bad, but they still
don’t want to see the doctors because of sparing

too much time in clinics. It is also difficult to
see a doctor as doctors are usually busy with
hospital duties,” resident Dr Soe Naing Win from
Tagaung Township hospital branch told the
Myanmar Times.

He remarked that during his residency in
rural areas, 5 out of 10 patients he treated were
taking or had taken the mixed medicines. He
added that he had treated a 56 year old patient
from Lat Lote village in Depeyin Township of
Sagaing District, who went blind by taking some
combined medicines for over a year believing
that it would cure his knee pain.

“Due to the compounded medicines, the most
common side effects are that the people suffer
stiffness in the nape and their faces become
puffy but they think they are getting fat due to a
good rest. It is most common at my clinic.

Therefore, I make them stop taking
compounded medicines. Some people oblige to

my advice. The main point is that we have to
educate the public and also control the people
selling compounded medicines. These are the
duties of the authority. We have to say is that
it is dangerous to take these medicines. They
come to us with a pack of medicines, which are
all compounded medicines,” said Dr Soe Naing

At the second regular meeting of the
first Pyithu Hluttaw, the Minister for Health
answered about the danger of compound
medicines and that they are prohibited.
According to the National Law section 16,
nobody is allowed to sell, store or distribute
medicines or raw materials without licenses
but due to the weakness of regular checks, the
situation still prevails.

The Health Department had issued notice
of not to take compounded medicines. For
example, in 2016, announcements were made
about the dangers of these medicines and to
avoid them. However, due to lack of knowledge,
most people in rural areas still depend on
compound medicines.

“Most of the people who come to me are
farmers. As they have worked in the fields all
day long, they use compounded medicines for
their stiff muscles and for arthritis of limbs and
swelling joints. They also use it in an attempt
to prevent from catching cough, cold, and
headache. As they cannot afford to have healthy
food, they take these medicines. They presume
that these medicines can provide them with all the
health they need. Most who are lack of knowledge
about medicines think that they look good when
they are chubby and rely on these medicines to
gain apatite so as to gain weight. They take these
medicines to cure swollen joints and from losing
appetite. Most of these kinds of people not only
take these medicines by themselves but also advice
others to take them,” he said.

“When they have to see a doctor, the cost
is high and also have to listen to the doctor’s
advice of the danger of these medicines.
Therefore, to avoid all these, they rather depend
on compounded medicines,” he said.

“The compounded medicines are still in
circulation and need time to be eradicated.
Success can only come when the population
fully accepts the danger of these mixed
medicines. Then again persuasion plays a vital
role to reduce the dangers of mixed medicines,
he said.

Translation by Swe Zin Moe
and Khine Thazin Han

Although dangerous, unknown mixed medicines are still a common
source of healthcare among the grassroots

Unknown mixed medicines still on demand

An elderly lady preparing unknown mixed medicine for her ill family member. Photos: Aung Htay Hlaing

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