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Time to prioritise health & education

Agnes Alpuerto / Khmer Times Share:

Dr. Mengly J. Quach, a medical doctor and the founder of one of the top schools in the capital, talks to Agnes Alpuerto about Cambodia’s health and education sectors, and how these two can go together to ensure healthier, stronger and wiser Khmer people.

YT: How is the health sector in Cambodia?

Dr. Mengly: There have been significant changes compared to decades ago in terms of health programmes, coverage for everyone and family health cards. I think Cambodia has strived forward from what we’ve seen a decade ago. Things have changed for the better. We have more hospitals now, more health centers. And, people are now living better and longer. The government and the private sectors have done a lot. But, it doesn’t mean that it’s good enough. We need to send more doctors to far-flung provinces to help the people there. Nowadays, those living outside Phnom Penh don’t get the medical attention they need because most of the doctors are just staying in the capital.

It also boils down to education. There are private and public universities offering nursing and medical doctor degrees. But, that is not enough in a country of 16 million people. We need more teaching hospitals where students can practice and learn firsthand. But right now, our students graduate from universities, get their degrees but don’t have anywhere to go for actual training where they will be pushed to be more professional and ethical.

YT: Is health education part of the Cambodian curriculum?

Dr. Mengly: I think it’s very important for schools to have health education. In fact, it is part of the curriculum. But health education is just very minute, we need to have something bigger and more extensive. But how? The teaching is only half a day. There’s too little time to squeeze all things in.

When you teach them health, you teach them many things – physical, mental, emotional, family issues, puberty, peer pressure, human development, and sexual maturity. All these things, if we don’t teach kids, if we don’t prepare them, they get scared and they won’t know who and where to go.

YT: As a medical doctor and educationist, how does MJQE support students’ health and wellness?

Dr. Mengly: I believe we are the first school to have Student Health Center. In schools with big population such as ours, our health centers have medical professionals – doctors, nurses and laboratory technician. It is where our students and staff can seek for help, can look forward to see a doctor when they’re feeling ill. With the student health centers – managed by professionals and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities – students and staff feel secured. All our student health centers have head nurses who do telemedicine in case there are serious cases and they need to contact our physician in the main campus.

Aside from our in-house doctors, nurses, lab technician and psychologists, we also invite specialists, obstetrician-gynecologists, pediatricians and medical professionals to train our teachers, staff and our students on healthcare issues, like how to take care of yourself, how and where to seek help. With this, we are making our students more knowledgeable on health and wellbeing. Our students are fortunate to be provided with everything that they need in terms of their health and well-being inside our schools.

YT: MJQE is undoubtedly complete with health facilities and learning techniques for its students. But how can these same benefits be enjoyed by other young Cambodians? How can the government and private organisations help improve both the health and education sectors in the country?

Dr. Mengly: If people are braver and more confident in asking what they want and what they need in terms of their health status, the doctors and healthcare professionals will start to work and provide those needs. It’s not that they are not doing their jobs; but we need our healthcare professionals to be really professional. We also have to work out on educating and informing Cambodians about their privileges, that they can get free treatment, ask questions about their status and be knowledgeable. Maybe in five to ten years, we can expect better and more accessible healthcare and education for everyone.

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