KUCHING, Sept 8 ― The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) is urging the government to prioritise early education on the importance of healthy habits as part of a national strategy.

Its president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai said this is to encourage a healthy lifestyle among Malaysians and prevent further increases in cases of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

“More drastic preventative measures are needed as a high number of NCD cases can have an impact on the country’s productivity, put a strain on the healthcare system and not to mention increase healthcare costs.


“We need to start thinking of the health of our younger generation and stop NCDs early, before it happens,” he said in a statement.

He said child obesity, which was almost unheard of four to five decades ago, has now become a national health issue.

Citing the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019, he said 14.8 per cent of children aged between five and 17 were found to be obese, a significant increase from 6.1 per cent reported in 2011.


“More alarmingly, based on the NHMS 2015, a total of 1.65 million Malaysian school children are expected to be overweight or obese by 2025,” said Dr Muruga.

Dr Muruga stressed that it is crucial that healthy habits be cultivated in children during their formative years.

“This is to ensure that they carry these habits into adulthood, where a health-conscious lifestyle becomes ingrained.

“As children spend a fair amount of time at school, schools would be the ideal platform to pick up healthy habits,” he said.

As part of a national strategy to prevent NCDs, he said MMA proposed that the Ministry of Health together with the Ministry of Education work towards a comprehensive policy to educate children from kindergarten to secondary school on the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle to remain healthy and prevent disease.

“Health should not be just a test or examination subject but embraced as part of a school lifestyle,” he said.

He said the comprehensive policy to educate children on health should include education on healthy lifestyle habits and promoting healthy eating habits such as basic nutrition education; weight management with monitoring of Body Mass Index (BMI); educating and training of school canteen operators/cooks on the preparation of healthy and nutritious meals; include calorie and nutrition information on food sold at school canteens; and a total ban on junk food/processed food at schools.

He also said that children must be educated on practising an active lifestyle such as encouraging them to take up at least one physical sport or join a sports club, excluding e-sports; daily full body workout or physical exercises as part of the school timetable; and to provide a school environment that encourages students to be physically active.

“A whole-of-school policy which encourages students, headmasters and principals, teachers and all staff to be physically active should also be developed,” he suggested.

Dr Muruga said for a successful outcome, parents of school children will have the most important role to play in supporting their child’s healthy development.

“We urge the government to also consider including programmes or activities that can involve parents,” he added. ― Borneo Post