Desy Nurhayati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Researchers with the Health Ministry say the administration's efforts to tackle poverty-related diseases in Indonesia were ineffective since it often only took action after illnesses had attracted public attention -- often too late.
Herman Sudiman, a newly installed research professor with the Health Ministry, said the eradication of the diseases, especially hunger and malnutrition, had focused on medication rather than prevention.
"Healing patients is less successful and diseases will never be completely healed," Herman said in his inauguration speech on poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
He said the country failed to address the problems of hunger and malnutrition as assistance usually came after patients were already in an extreme condition, which was too late.
"Efforts should focus more on prevention because it is cheaper. Preventive measures mean we help those who are at risk," he said.
Herman, from the University of Indonesia's School of Community Health, and Mohammad Sudomo, from the Bandung Institute of Technology School of Biology, were inaugurated as research professors by an Indonesian Institute of Sciences panel.
In his speech, Sudomo said other poverty-related illnesses including parasitic diseases, especially filariasis and schistosomiasis, had been neglected by the administration.
Filariasis and schistosomiasis, both caused by worms, have infected millions of people around Indonesia, particularly those living in slums and swampy areas.
"Even though parasitic diseases will not lead to an epidemic, it is crucial that we tackle them," Sudomo said.
Sudomo warned that further negligence would hamper the nation's productivity. Filariasis could lead to paralysis, while schistosomiasis could be fatal.
Both researchers said poverty-related diseases needed more serious and comprehensive management.
Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari, attending the inauguration ceremony, said government policies on health had yet to fully take advantage of research results.
"We need to improve our research and make the most of the results so that in future we can formulate better evidence-based policies," Siti said.
With around 37.17 million or 16.6 percent of the country's population living in poverty, the ministry and all related stakeholders would need to work harder to overcome poverty-related disease, Siti said.