Malaysia’s the fattest country in Asia, so why aren’t we spending on our health?

SEREMBAN: As the saying goes: prevention is better than cure. Today, many assume that their most important asset is their wealth. They scramble to buy more property and earn...

SEREMBAN: As the saying goes: prevention is better than cure. Today, many assume that their most important asset is their wealth. They scramble to buy more property and earn more money. Too often they would be in such pursuit for wealth that they neglect their true asset, their health.


The President of the Malaysian Doctor’s Club Dr Muhammad Hakim Nordin said society today was still reluctant when it came to investing in their health. “We are so consumed in making monetary investments but fail to channel the same effort towards our health. “The 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey revealed that more Malaysians today are topping the chart for obesity and chronic diseases,” he told Bernama.


A study published in the renowned British medical journal, The Lancet, showed that Malaysia is the most obese country in Asia. The 2015 National Health and Morbidity survey supported this fact by revealing that nearly half of the Malaysian population aged 18 and above (47.7 percent) were overweight or obese. “Obesity used to be just a term to describe excessive body weight. Today, obesity is also known as disease. “Many are unaware that obesity is a catalyst for chronic diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Obesity rapidly increases the risk of chronic disease,” he said. The survey also showed a rapid rise in chronic diseases among Malaysians. “We can see that 30.3 percent of Malaysians aged 18 and above suffer from high blood pressure, 47.7 percent have high cholesterol levels and 17.5 percent have diabetes,” he said.



Muhammad Hakim said what society needed to understand was the complications that could arise from these chronic diseases, as they would only manifest after 15 or 30 years. High blood pressure, for example, could cause arteriosclerosis through the building up of plaque on the surface of blood vessels. He said that this could further lead to stroke, a weak heart, heart attack (myocardial infarction), heart failure, kidney failure (due to nephropathy), liver damage and eye damage. “All these complications only manifest themselves years after the initial diagnosis. “A large number of Malaysians are skeptical to go for treatment via modern medicine due to the stories floating around social media such as “drugs causing kidney damage”. So we can expect to see a rising number of complications from among chronic disease patients in the country within the next 15 to 30 years,” he said. He said this would further weigh down the already burdened government healthcare system. Muhammad Hakim said it could lead to a national healthcare system crisis if nothing was done to prevent the situation from occurring.


It is important to have continual awareness campaigns on chronic diseases so that the masses can be constantly educated of the risks and prevention. He said that the Ministry of Youth and Sports was also doing its part to promote health awareness through its Fit Malaysia campaign. The campaign is seen to be successful as it has managed to encourage many, particularly from the younger generation, to take part in fitness activities. “We now see more marathons organised and the public participation in such events have been wildly encouraging. “However, this still does not address the main cause of obesity and chronic diseases in Malaysia which is a poor eating habit,” he said. Muhammad Hakim said Malaysia’s racial diversity contributed towards its wide variety of food choices, eventually creating a society in which eating was a constant affair. In addition to that, those living in large cities may be eating out more often than those living in quieter cities due to their busy and hectic lifestyles and the availability of 24-hour eateries. Such are the challenges that must be dealt with on a national scale in order to prevent what would be a national health crisis in the coming years. Muhammad Hakim proposed that the Malaysian Doctors Club be introduced in schools and tertiary education institutions nationwide to help inculcate awareness on chronic diseases. “The club can ease the effort by employing a more interactive and interesting approach,” he said. — Bernama