Sarawak ‘not an exception’ to obesity rise

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Datuk Hajah Fatimah Abdullah
Datuk Hajah Fatimah Abdullah, Sarawak’s Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development

The incidence of obesity is on the rise in Sarawak, especially with those in their middle age, making the state no different than the expanding waistbands recorded overall in Malaysia, ASEAN’s most obese nation.

“Sarawak is not an exception when it comes to rising obesity rates. In fact, we seem to be moving towards this trend because of better incomes and changed lifestyles,” Datuk Hajah Fatimah Abdullah, Sarawak’s Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development, told Inside Investor.

“Sarawakians used to walk a lot, but now people want to find the closest parking spot and avoid walking altogether,” she observed.

A recorded 15.1 per cent of Malaysians aged above 18 suffer from obesity, while more than 35 per cent are either obese or overweight with a body-mass index of more than 25, according to statistics from the National Health and Morbidity Surveys.

To address this severe problem, education has been pinpointed on the best solution, with a priority placed on children.

“We believe that prevention is better than a cure, so that’s why we focus on young children, who we are increasingly displaying signs of becoming overweight even before they enter school. Assisting early childhood education also involves making sure that food operators at public schools are vetted and are providing nutritional options,” Fatimah said.

However, while many medical professionals agree that nutrition has to be given paramount focus at a young age, Malaysian culture has engrained dietary norms that education will have to combat, especially as parents often pass down these habits to their children.

ASEAN obesity
Click to enlarge

“Sarawakians have acquired a taste for fried and salted food. When I was younger, we didn’t have TVs, refrigerators or electricity. So how did we preserve food? You had to preserve food by using salt and this taste has remained because our generation has been brought up being very familiar with salty tastes,” Fatimah reminisced.

Publically run organisations and agencies, such as public libraries and mosques, offer exercise programmes throughout Malaysia, but the obesity pandemic rises none the less due to modern sendity lifestyles.

“In reality, there are not quick-fix solutions. You cannot expect people to change mentalities overnight,” Tan Sri Ismail Bin Merican, the former Director General in the Malaysian Health Ministry and Pro Chancellor of MAHSA College, said in an interview with Inside Investor last February.

When comparing Malaysia to other ASEAN nations, Thailand suffers from a 32.2 per cent overweight incidence, followed by Singapore (30.2 per cent) and the Philippines (26.5 per cent).

The skinniest ASEAN nations are Vietnam with a 10.1 per cent overweight incidence, followed by Cambodia (12.1 per cent) and Laos (13.3 per cent).

 

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Datuk Hajah Fatimah Abdullah, Sarawak’s Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development

The incidence of obesity is on the rise in Sarawak, especially with those in their middle age, making the state no different than the expanding waistbands recorded overall in Malaysia, ASEAN’s most obese nation.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Datuk Hajah Fatimah Abdullah
Datuk Hajah Fatimah Abdullah, Sarawak’s Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development

The incidence of obesity is on the rise in Sarawak, especially with those in their middle age, making the state no different than the expanding waistbands recorded overall in Malaysia, ASEAN’s most obese nation.

“Sarawak is not an exception when it comes to rising obesity rates. In fact, we seem to be moving towards this trend because of better incomes and changed lifestyles,” Datuk Hajah Fatimah Abdullah, Sarawak’s Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development, told Inside Investor.

“Sarawakians used to walk a lot, but now people want to find the closest parking spot and avoid walking altogether,” she observed.

A recorded 15.1 per cent of Malaysians aged above 18 suffer from obesity, while more than 35 per cent are either obese or overweight with a body-mass index of more than 25, according to statistics from the National Health and Morbidity Surveys.

To address this severe problem, education has been pinpointed on the best solution, with a priority placed on children.

“We believe that prevention is better than a cure, so that’s why we focus on young children, who we are increasingly displaying signs of becoming overweight even before they enter school. Assisting early childhood education also involves making sure that food operators at public schools are vetted and are providing nutritional options,” Fatimah said.

However, while many medical professionals agree that nutrition has to be given paramount focus at a young age, Malaysian culture has engrained dietary norms that education will have to combat, especially as parents often pass down these habits to their children.

ASEAN obesity
Click to enlarge

“Sarawakians have acquired a taste for fried and salted food. When I was younger, we didn’t have TVs, refrigerators or electricity. So how did we preserve food? You had to preserve food by using salt and this taste has remained because our generation has been brought up being very familiar with salty tastes,” Fatimah reminisced.

Publically run organisations and agencies, such as public libraries and mosques, offer exercise programmes throughout Malaysia, but the obesity pandemic rises none the less due to modern sendity lifestyles.

“In reality, there are not quick-fix solutions. You cannot expect people to change mentalities overnight,” Tan Sri Ismail Bin Merican, the former Director General in the Malaysian Health Ministry and Pro Chancellor of MAHSA College, said in an interview with Inside Investor last February.

When comparing Malaysia to other ASEAN nations, Thailand suffers from a 32.2 per cent overweight incidence, followed by Singapore (30.2 per cent) and the Philippines (26.5 per cent).

The skinniest ASEAN nations are Vietnam with a 10.1 per cent overweight incidence, followed by Cambodia (12.1 per cent) and Laos (13.3 per cent).

 

 

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