Obesity – a serious national disease in Malaysia!

We need a 'revolution' to reset our poor habits and change the landscape of work, play and eating

People are struggling to put nutritious food on the table - SILVIARITA/PIXABAY

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A news portal recently highlighted a crucial problem in its report titled “Getting workers fit and healthy is good for business“. 

A recent survey by the health ministry found that over 50% of Malaysians are overweight, with a majority of them living unhealthy lifestyles.

The survey found that the percentage of overweight or obese adults rose alarmingly from 9.1% in 2011 to 54.5% in 2023.

The Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia (Samenta) and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) have raised the alarm.

But it is left to be seen if more media organisations will highlight the problem of obesity among the people, which is a worrying concern that can affect the nation. 

A nation cannot progress if half its people are obese. 

Samenta president William Ng said that “companies could encourage their employees to eat healthily”.

Ng also recommends that employers should consider “rewarding employees for keeping to their ideal weight or BMI [body mass index].”

The MEF, which saw an exponential increase in its membership with “over 5,000 organisations from various industries and sizes and 22 industry groups’ associations” under its wing also believes in the role employers can play to rid the Malaysian workforce of this ‘disease’. 

Its president, Syed Hussain Syed Husman. said “employers should help encourage their employees to reach the health ministry’s recommended goal of walking 10,000 steps a day”.

Although the health ministry’s survey found that the percentage of overweight or obese adults rose alarmingly from 9.1% in 2011 to 54.5% in 2023, we have yet to declare obesity as one of the country’s liabilities. 

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We are plagued by heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension. We see overcrowded health facilities despite building more and more hospitals and clinics throughout the country. 

The drug companies are having a field day cashing in on this situation. Half the people are suffering from obesity – which is the root cause of many diseases, illnesses and health complications. 

In 2024, the projected revenue of the pharmaceuticals sector in Malaysia is expected to reach $1,618m. 

Meanwhile, people of all races and religions in Malaysia are clearly overindulging in unhealthy food and drinks. This is true, even during Ramadan, which should be a month for moderation. 

In some government departments, employees are said to take several meal breaks: breakfast, a 10am break, lunch, teatime and even a bite over teh tarik (frothy tea) after work at 5pm.

With half our people being obese, we may even be losing out to our neighbours in Asean.  

In Thailand, for example, each police personnel is given a uniform. If the uniform does not fit you, you cannot exchange it for a larger-size replacement. Instead, you are given one to two weeks leave to go exercise, eat right and get back into shape to fit the uniform. 

Many of our defence and security uniformed personnel are clearly obese. They may not be fit to defend the nation against foreign intrusion, let alone curbing the increasing crime rate.

Some may blame the fast-food chains. Others will say they do not have much choice as both working parents are left with no time to cook healthy meals at home. The high obesity rate may also be an indicator of the rising cost of living or high poverty.

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As rightly claimed by Samenta and the MEF, obesity leads to ill heath and under-performance and directly affects the nation’s productivity. 

As seen from pharmaceutical statistics, the nation will keep spending more on healthcare. 

We need a ‘revolution’ to reset our poor habits and change the landscape of work, play and eating. 

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Paul Lim
Paul Lim
2 Jun 2024 1.35pm

It is not just a Malaysian problem but worldwide; The “revolution” that the author speaks of should be ending the consumer society which the suppliers promote.Ending the consumer society will not be popular with the consumers unfortunately. We should eating to live and not live to eat.