11. Malaysia: the consumer voice in the policy process Simon Barraclough and Phua Kai Lit In seeking to theorize the role of social movements in health, Brown and Zavestoski suggest three ‘ideal types’ (Brown and Zavestoski 2005: 7–8). Health access movements seek equity and improvements in health care, while embodied health movements approach ‘disease, disability or illness experience by challenging science on aetiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention’ (Brown and Zavestoski 2005: 7). The third type, constituency-based movements, target health inequalities proceeding from factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexual preference. Overlapping concerns are possible in this typology, but it serves to alert the analyst to the social factors influencing health consumer movements. In Malaysia, health access groups have been the most significant, although they can hardly be described as movements with a mass membership. A number of illness-related organizations have lobbied the government on specific issues (for example, HIV/AIDS, mental health, heart disease and cancer). Constituency groups have not been significant; despite the country’s ethnically plural population, there have not been notable demands for health care based upon ethnic considerations, with the exception of advocacy for the Orang Asli (Aborigines of Peninsular Malaysia). However, consumer bodies claiming a population-wide constituency have been active for 40 years, arguing for equitable access to health care for all Malaysians and improvements in the health system. They have challenged the commodification of heath care by the medical profession, asserting the need for preventive care and recognition of the social determinants of...
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