Kuala Lumpur, 04 June 2020 — The recent release of the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 has highlighted the insidious nature of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and risk factors such as diabetes, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and obesity which are causing a catastrophic impact on the Malaysian healthcare system and society as a whole.
“We are in a state of crisis. However, despite the recent findings of the NHMS, it is likely that Malaysians as a whole will not treat it as one, especially with the ongoing threat of COVID-19,” said Azrul Mohd Khalib, Chief Executive of the Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy.
“Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension are tolerated, normalised and even deemed inevitable. Our society’s fatalistic attitude towards NCDs and willingness to suffer through a sub-optimal quality of life, is a problem and sustains a vicious cycle which sees more young people and even children suffering from NCDs. How is it acceptable that in 2020, 1 out of 5 children in this country have stunted growth? This fatalism is claiming lives everyday.”
“Unfortunately, the increasing and crippling burden of NCDs has caused Malaysia’s healthcare system to struggle to transform itself from a sickness service to a health and well-being service.”
“The crises that we are experiencing today can be linked back to our low levels of health literacy which influences our attitudes towards health and adopting healthy behaviours. Higher levels of health literacy allow people to process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make better and appropriate health decisions.”
“We have not made enough investments in strengthening initiatives which focus on improving health literacy among the population. However, it is not enough to just understand, we must also practice what we know and believe that we can change for the better. Changing behaviours is extremely hard.” stressed Azrul.
“The NCD and malnutrition crises in Malaysia is also complex as it is linked to social determinants of health which include issues of socioeconomic inequality, rising cost of affordable food choices, and advances in technology which increase sedentary behaviour. There is no overnight solution to this problem ”
“The health component of the upcoming 12th Malaysia Plan must have a solid commitment towards ensuring that health initiatives which address the NCD crisis are grounded in reality and are fully funded,” Azrul emphasised.
“A single policy measure on its own is not going to be the magic bullet. There are limits to legislating health. We cannot choose for people, they have to choose for themselves and take responsibility for their health. The bottom line is that Malaysians must choose to change the way they live their lives, consume food and adopt healthy practices and behaviour.”
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