Creating a healthy living environment ― Sin Chew Daily

JANUARY 2 ― The government will introduce 13 new policies to tackle the rising trend of non-communicable diseases (NCD) among Malaysians. Non-communicable diseases include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes, among many others.

According to the WHO, smoking, lack of physical activities, excessive alcohol intake and unhealthy diet will all increase the risk of NCDs.

Malaysia has among the highest obesity rates in Asia with many unable to control their appetites for food or maintain healthy diets. As a result, the government has to draw up new policies to mitigate its increasingly heavy burden in controlling NCDs.

Prevention is better than cure. Malaysians should extend full cooperation to the government to ensure a healthy lifestyle for themselves so as to avert the exorbitant medical cost.

WHO member states have agreed to bring down global salt intake by 30 per cent while checking the rising instances of diabetes and 2025.

The 13 new measures to be introduced by the Malaysian government are in line with the WHO initiative. As a matter of fact, the government has in 2011 set up a cabinet committee for the creation of a healthy living environment comprising 13 government departments.

If these 13 measures manage to secure the full cooperation and participation of various government agencies, they should help make Malaysia a healthier nation.

Our diet is affected by a host of factors working together in a complicated manner, including income level, food prices, personal preferences, cultural traditions and other social factors.

Our traditional foods are high in fat, sugar and salt, and almost every single Malaysian will come across such “unhealthy” foods on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, we consume relatively low amounts of fruits and vegetables and we hardly exercise our bodies.

A healthy diet should comprise a diverse range of balanced and wholesome foods, and we need the input from government departments and other interested parties to make this a reality.

To create a healthy living environment and minimize the instance of NCDs, the government needs to adopt an educational approach, providing the necessary facilities and incentives to encourage Malaysians to change their unhealthy diets and lifestyles instead of overly interfering in the free operation of social activities such as restricting the business hours of F&B outlets.

Where restricting business operations is concerned, the government should have instituted amicable dialogues with the relevant trade organizations before putting any policy into implementation.

Perhaps the government should consider other measures such as restricting advertisements of unhealthy foods and imposing duties on sweetened beverages.

There are actually a lot that the cabinet committee can do, including making better use of inter-departmental data and sharing of resources to ensure effective implementation of these measures.

However, such measures must be introduced carefully with the objective of correcting Malaysians' lifestyle, not punitively restricting their activities. ― Sin Chew Daily

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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