IT was worrying to hear Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad warning Malaysians that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are on the rise, based on the National Health Morbidity Survey conducted by his ministry; he was speaking on Saturday in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan.
Diabetes has risen from 8.3% cases among the population in 1996 to 17.5% in 2015, and the percentage of adults suffering from hypertension is at a high of 30%. Smoking and obesity are the two factors contributing to these two fast-spreading NCDs that cause premature death.
Future generations must be spared these diseases; early signals are already there with Malaysian youths earning the tag as “fattest” among Asean countries and most bored in the world by a recent MTV Asia survey – and this is certainly worrisome!
We need more of the Health Ministry’s community health empowerment programmes such as Komuniti Sihat Pembina Negara, the World Health Organisation-initiated Communication for Behavioural Impact (Combi), and the PeKa: B40 programme which offers early screening for NCDs.
The government also offers National Sports Day with the “Get Fit” road show on Oct 10 every year. Exercise must become second nature among Malaysians to emphasise health, fitness and wellness for people from all walks of life.
Health is a dynamic process and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important in reducing the risk of hypertension, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. A healthy lifestyle also improves longevity, endurance, agility and makes a better individual and a good citizen with positive character.
I see smaller numbers of adults and senior citizens exercising in our parks and open fields (many of which have been hijacked by development, unfortunately).
Schools and universities must offer clubs and fitness centres to make students aware of the importance of health and fitness. It is especially important to encourage children and youth to participate in sporting events rather than allowing them to lead sedentary lives as they get hooked on playing computer games and loitering in cyber cafes.
The other component for a healthy and fit society is social, mental, emotional and spiritual health, which will enhance our quality of life, personal growth and potential through positive behaviours and attitudes.
The government must make health and fitness part of a workable national agenda, working with all relevant stakeholders – schools, parents, teachers and corporate and sports bodies must come forward to help our government to make the National Sports Day a highlight of our lives.
We need to mould well-rounded and healthy Malaysians to keep the country strong, not citizens who are obese with bad habits such as poor food choices and smoking. We must stop the increase of NCDs that rob the country of human capital at an early age.
C. SATHASIVAM SITHERAVELLU