Non-communicable diseases cause heavy annual losses, study reveals

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia annually “loses” over 200,000 potential productive years due to the premature deaths of employees with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), a study showed.

Findings from a report by the Health Ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) calculated that the workers who died prematurely due to NCDs in the year studied could have contributed a further 201,185 years in the workforce.

The figure was estimated based on 20,786 reported deaths of persons of working age in Malaysia in 2017, attributed to three types of NCDs, namely cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.

Productivity losses from premature deaths amounted to about RM4.11bil, in a high-cost estimated figure.

“Cardiovascular diseases accounted for RM2.54bil or 61.72% of this lost production due to premature deaths, followed by cancer at RM1.5bil or 36.11%, ” the report said.

Unhealthy diets were the main contributor of lost productivity from premature deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, at 68.9%.

Tobacco consumption, on the other hand, was identified as the primary reason for productivity losses arising from premature deaths of those with cancer (15%).

According to a WHO report in 2016, NCDs are estimated to account for 74% of all deaths in Malaysia. Absenteeism related to NCDs also leads to productivity losses of about RM2.61bil in Malaysia.

“An estimated total of 15.3 million working days were likely lost in Malaysia in 2017 due to the three major NCD categories.

“Diabetes was the largest contributor to the working days lost, accounting for an estimated 7.9 million lost working days, or 51.5% of the total, ” the report said.

Losses from presenteeism (working while sick or not at full capacity) also amounted to about RM6.2bil, with diabetes amounting to 70% of the total losses.

Bernama previously reported that the same study showed that NCDs had cost the Malaysian economy an estimated RM8.91bil in total.

Health experts said a healthy lifestyle must be promoted among society, since at least half of Malaysians have one risk factor such as being a smoker or is overweight.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar attributed lifestyle choices like one’s diet and physical activity to be the main contributor to NCDs in the country.

“Our healthcare system is still focused heavily on the treatment of disease, but now we are slowly moving into (prevention and) screening of risk factors.

“There are also programmes such as Komuniti Sihat Perkasa Negara (Kospen) that can be conducted in the workplace where they encourage companies to have health screenings, weight reduction programmes and anti-smoking campaigns, ” he said.

He, however, said that the motivation to modify one’s behaviour still relied on the individual himself.

General practitioner Dr Lee Chee Wan said the government had put in place the National Strategic Plan for NCDs, which runs from 2016 to 2025.

“This is well placed to provide and promote preventive healthcare where the roles of the private sectors and NGOs are emphasised.

“Multisectoral collaboration and cooperation from all stakeholders are needed for success, ” he said.

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