Friday, December 3

‘Policy-makers can help inculcate healthy regime’

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KUCHING: A consolidated effort involving both the public and private sectors, including top policy makers, is very much needed to inculcate a healthy lifestyle to combat the rise of non-communicable disease cases in the country.

Assistant Minister of Public Health Datuk Dr Jerip Susil said non-communicable diseases including diabetes in particular, is one of the critical problems facing Malaysians today.

Combating these diseases, providing treatment, running educational programmes takes a huge amount of the nation’s budget each year and this creates a financial burden and could become a threat to the nation’s productivity.

The 2011 National Health and Morbidity Study (NHMS) revealed about 2.6 million or 15.6 per cent Malaysians aged 18 years and above have diabetes. This was an increase from 11.6 per cent over the span of five years from 2006. A total of 5.8 million (32.7 per cent) have high blood pressure while 6.2 million or 35.1 per cent have high cholesterol level.

A recent Oxfam International report on worldwide food quality and consumed food of poor nutritional diversity, projected the prevalence of diabetes among those who are 18 years and above could hit 4.5 million by 2020.

In the state, about 3.4 per cent of its 2.5 million population have diabetes. The Health Department revealed that registered diabetic patients have increased from 69,669 in 2011 to 85,108 last year – an increase of 22 per cent.

“Health education is one way to educate the public but a consolidated effort is very much needed to inculcate healthy living to the whole population at large. Every individual must take responsibility and be health conscious. This includes living an active lifestyle.

“Each individual must consider regular exercise everyday. The lack of exercising and improper diet are the two major challenges in our society today.

“We can advised the society, create programmes but it is difficult to raise awareness if we can’t get individuals to translate that knowledge into positive behaviour. However, a policy in place to support healthy living could ‘push’ the society into adopting a healthy lifestyle,” Dr Jerip said when contacted Thursday.

The Bengoh assemblyman suggested that there should be a governmental policy in place where both the public and private sectors find ways to encourage and support their staff to be healthy. Health education should also be part and parcel of the consolidated effort, introduced as early as possible in school. Healthy eating habits must be inculcated amongst the younger generations.

Cities and townships should be equipped with parks and spaces to promote walking. Housing estates must also be friendly for exercise activities.

He said that in Japan and Korea, there exists a practice where it is compulsory for workers to exercise in the morning. He suggested that here, the public and corporate sectors should not only focus on encouraging employees for health screening, but also allow more time for exercise.

“They must encourage employees to spend at least 30 minutes daily exercising. A good output of exercise will increase the output of performance in office. Some of the successful corporate companies promote exercise by setting up gyms in the office. Some even allow their employees to switch off, say, at around 4.30pm and head to the gym before clocking off at around 5pm.”

Dr Jerip emphasised the need to establish a culture where everyone wants to be healthy. It is somewhat proven that individuals who managed to become healthier and fitter by adopting healthy living could create a contagious, positive effect to the people in their surroundings.

Touching on early health awareness among primary school pupils, he opined that there should be a policy in the education system, or at least an understanding between teachers and parents, to raise the alarm if their children are inclining towards obese status.

“At the moment, it can be quite sensitive to discuss children obesity with parents as some may see their children as being well-built instead. Sometimes, children being overweight translates into a cultural mindset that the children is well fed by their parents. We have to be very careful when tackling this subject,” he explained.