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Thalassemia Awareness Drive Targets Teens
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6 Nov 2013 6:31PM
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KUCHING: Despite a high percentage of patients in the state and Sabah, Thalassemia is relatively unknown and rarely, if ever, talked about.

With this in mind, the Ministry of Health (MoH) Malaysia launched an awareness campaign targeted at teenagers to bring them an important message - know your Thalassemia status and talk to your parents and get screened for Thalassemia today.

Together with See Hua Group, the message was carried to three schools outside the city — SMK Lake, Bau, SMK (A) Sheikh Haji Othman Abdul Wahab, Padawan and SMK Bako.

Students and their teachers relished this opportunity to learn something new, even telling reporters that this was the first health campaign to visit their school.

Thalassemia is a genetic disorder which prevents the body from producing sufficient red blood cells. In severe cases, it could lead to death.

Patients will have to undergo blood transfusion every month for their entire lives.

This is not without risks; continuous transfusions will create an iron overload in the body, resulting in damage to vital organs.

“The lifespan of a patient isn’t long. Not many live beyond 40, especially those with Thalassemia Major. Most die at a young age, especially if they can’t afford a bone marrow transplant or the monthly transfusion,” said Dr Siti Khadijah Ahmad Tajuddin, a medical officer from Kuching Health Department, who delivered the talk at SMK Lake.

As a hereditary disease, a person’s Thalassemia status is important to know before getting married and planning a family.

According to Dr Siti Khadijah, the Health Ministry aims to reduce the prevalence of Thalassemia among Malaysians because of its impact to public health and cost, as well as its devastating impact on the patient.

At SMK Lake, Alexander Terry, 15, told reporters that he now knows the difference between being a Thalassemia carrier and a patient.

“Before this, I didn’t know anything. Now I understand it better. It’s important. This is not a normal topic of conversation,” said the future engineer who is waiting for his PMR results.

At SMK (A) Sheikh Othman Abdul Wahab, the response was similar.

Form 4 science student Awang Syahrizman Rizwan said that it is valuable to their education that they know what Thalassemia is.

Siti Nuur Annafiah, also in Form 4 shared the same view.

“It exposes us to what it is early and now we know how to prevent it. When I have some free time, I am going to go get screened,” said Siti, who wants to be a cardiologist.

Even teachers benefit from the talk.

Boarding house supervisor (student welfare) Abang Abdillah Awang Omar said that it would be good for relevant ministries to bring more awareness programmes to rural schools.

“Students usually know very little. As a supervisor, sometimes my own knowledge is limited,” he said.

Nur Nadzirah Nasir of SMK Bako said she heard the word ‘Thalassemia’ from TV but did not truly understand what it was until the awareness programme arrived at her school.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn about it today. When I’m free, I’ll go get screened,” said the 16-year old, who wants to go into medicine and specialise in women’s health.

SMK Bako’s principal Ibrahim Jamain said that students who attended this talk and know they do not have Thalassemia are grateful that they were born normal.

“This is also reinforcement to what they learnt in the classroom,” he said, expressing his thanks to See Hua Group and the Ministry of Health for choosing SMK Bako.

“I hope that this kind of programmes can be carried out annually so it can be part of our school calendar,” he added.

Text as reproduced from The Borneo Post on 31st October 2013

Photo Credit to: The Borneo Post

tags: Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia, School Activity