Emerging crisis among M’sian teens


Digital tracking: The portable IoT gadget to monitor teenagers’ daily physical activities.

THE prevalence of obesity among Malaysia’s youth is mostly due to lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits.

In fact, their diets contain a lot of fast food, sugary treats and supersized portions.

“A survey conducted by the Institute of Public Health and the Health Ministry found that the average daily intake of sugar among Malaysian youth increased from seven teaspoons in 2012 to 10 teaspoons in 2017, which is more than the recommended limit for adults.

“Malaysians generally consume an average of three kilogrammes of sugar per year in the form of sugary drinks.

“Survey results show that 36% of Malaysia’s youth drink carbonated drinks at least once a day,” said INTI International University Faculty of Business and Communications Assoc Prof Dr Sam Toong Hai.

“Obesity rates are also rising each year, from 14% in 2006 to 15.1% in 2011 and 17.7% in 2015, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) studies conducted then.

“The problem of obesity and being overweight in Malaysia is now at an alarming level,” he pointed out in a research project he recently conducted titled “Internet of Things (IoT) based Obesity and Overweight Monitoring Arm Belt for Teenagers in Malaysia”.

The definition of being overweight is having a body mass index (BMI) of between 25.0 kg/m2 and 29.9 kg/m2, while for obesity, the BMI is 30.0 kg/m2 and above, he added.Sam’s project was aimed at developing a portable IoT gadget to monitor teenagers’ daily physical activities while addressing the root cause of weight problems.

The device, which is battery-powered, has a microcontroller system equipped with a global-positioning system (GPS) and a movement sensor.

Sam said the device is worn on the arm to enable tracking via a smartphone, and the data is synced and recorded on an online platform that can be monitored remotely by another user, in this case, parents.

Research for the project also revealed that the advancement in modern technology has contributed to reducing the dilemma of obesity by providing new, widely used, lightweight, easy-to-use, and low-cost consumer-based fitness wearable trackers and food intake systems.

These tools provide an objective indicator of a user’s daily energy expenditure and food history over long periods.

“Users will be able to track their data over time through a mobile application or website. However, data collected by these systems should be relevant, understandable and pervasive for the purpose of providing an accurate measurement and better health outcome,” Sam said, adding that many healthcare professionals predict that obesity will continue rising in the coming decade all over the world due to lifestyle factors such as sedentary jobs, technological innovations, and unhealthy food.

The advancement in smartphone devices and wireless sensor networks will further revolutionise the local and global healthcare domain by providing intelligent, low-cost mobile health and wireless body area network (WBAN) systems that will facilitate communication with patients to acquire better services within an optimal period, he said in a press release.

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