Everybody Needs to Act!

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Obesity is a public health challenge that has grown into worldwide epidemics. It is estimated that almost one-third of the adults worldwide will be overweight and more than one billion will be obese by 2025. Based on the 2019 NHMS, ONE IN EVERY TWO Malaysian adults is overweight or obese.  The Economist Intelligence Unit reported in 2017 that Malaysia suffers the highest overall cost for obesity among other ASEAN countries, reaching an alarming 10 to 20 per cent of the country’s healthcare expenditure. These overall costs include treatment, loss of economic output and the loss of years of productive life due to obesity-related mortality.

Obesity is associated with an increased risk for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, dyslipidaemia, and certain types of cancer such as breast, colorectal, and uterine cancer. NCDs are responsible for 71% of premature deaths and more than 70% of the disease burden in Malaysia. The burden of disease (disability-adjusted life years, DALY) costs Malaysia about RM100 billion, or 7.35% of the national gross domestic product (GDP). Not known to many, obesity also affects our voice where obese individuals experience changes in voice features such as hoarseness, murmuring, vocal instability.

Read more: Your ‘Voice’ Matters in Obesity – Patrick Peng Wee Yao, Moy Foong Ming, and Victor Hoe Chee Wai Abdullah.

Obesity results in indirect economic losses at work.  Absenteeism and presenteeism are commonly used in assessing workplace productivity loss.  Extremely obese workers are generally less productive than non-obese workers, as they face more limitations in which they may spend longer time completing tasks or being less able to perform physical job demands. According to a study conducted in the United States (US), about 4% of health-related loss in productivity was noted among obese individuals, translated to an additional loss of 506 dollars per worker annually. In Malaysia, 4.5% of the gross domestic product in 2015 was attributed to absenteeism and presenteeism.

Read more: Obesity Affects Productivity – Yap Jun Fai, Moy Foong Ming, and Lim Yin Cheng.

The 2015 NHMS reported the prevalence of obesity among older adults was 30.2%. Obesity in late-life confers a higher risk for impaired physical function which may contribute to poor quality of life. Obese disabled older adults frequently have muscle weakness, poor mobility, and higher fall rates.  The management of weight loss among older adults should include lifestyle modifications that are achievable and safe. Weight loss may be accompanied by a decline in fat mass. Therefore, activities to maintain muscle mass, strength, balance and functional status, should be a component of all weight loss plans for older adults.

Read more: Obesity and Older Adults – Shaznida Ghulam and Moy Foong Ming.

Obesity is a multi-factorial disease driven by genetics, environmental, and biological factors. As such, obesity should not be attributed to a personal responsibility that leads to weight stigma and stereotyping of people living with obesity as having a lack of willpower or discipline to maintain energy balance.  It is time to move away from the narrative of sticking to fixed diet plans (e.g., Atkins diet, Keto diet, low carbohydrate diets, etc.) or restrictive eating.

As Malaysians, food is beyond just calories and nutrients. Food is part of our culture. Certain food trigger memories, while others treat food as a form of reward or satisfaction.  Therefore, we should stop labelling foods as good food or bad food. All foods contain nutrients that are beneficial when taken in the appropriate amounts. We should include a variety of foods in our daily intakes.  We should be mindful of what and how much we are eating. Diet monitoring with the assistance of mobile applications may be useful in weight management.

Read more: Try MyDietCam for Better Food Intake – Nadine Kong and Moy Foong Ming.

Align with the World Obesity Day’s theme “Everybody needs to act” which is celebrated on 4 March 2022, it is now the time to declare the obesity fight as everybody’s fight. Everybody has their part to play. The recommendations to combat obesity should involve a top-down collaboration from the government, policymakers, employers, municipals and individuals in the interpersonal and intrapersonal levels.

At the interpersonal /individual level, practising a healthier lifestyle is the most effective way to combat overweight and obesity. Remember HELPS!

Halt smoking and alcohol consumption with expert guidance and assistance.

Eating a healthy diet as frequently as you can. Make sure your diet consists of a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and vegetable oils.

Love your mind as you love your soul. Practising mindfulness, deep breathing, as well as relaxation exercises and therapies could provide a peaceful mind thus preventing unhealthy behaviours that can lead to weight gain.

Physical exercise should be made at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity throughout the week. Examples include brisk walking, cycling at moderate speeds, swimming, gardening or walking.

Social connectivity may provide more sustainable lifestyle changes.  Improve your connections in the community to build a supportive society and conducive environment to keep you motivated for healthier choices.

Read more: Obesity is Everybody’s Business – Zakiah Othman, Moy Foong Ming, and Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud.

It is important to raise awareness that OBESITY IS AN ISSUE FOR EVERYBODY. Together, we can give everybody the best chance to live happier, healthier and longer lives.

Happy World Obesity Day.

The media pieces were written by research candidates of the Department of Social & Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya and compiled by Professor Dr Moy Foong Ming in conjunction with the World Obesity Day on 4 March 2022.

Dr Zakiah Othman – DrPH candidate.

Ms Nadine Kong – MMedSc researcher.

Mr Ng Yit Han – PhD candidate.
Read more: Maintain Optimal Weight to Stay Healthy

Dr Patrick Peng – DrPH candidate.

Ms Shaznida Ghulam – DrPH candidate.

Dr Yap Jun Fai – DrPH candidate.

Dr Soh Yih Harng – DrPH candidate.
Read more: Let’s Act to Reduce Obesity, Breast Cancer Risks

Dr Yoong Lee Yeen – DrPH candidate.
Read more: Healthier Weight, Healthier Life

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