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PR opportunities aplenty by creating healthy Malaysia campaign

Updated: Oct 19, 2023


Article by Jacqueline Arnold @ TwentyTwo13 (19 July 2023)


In August 2018, Malaysia was crowned Asia’s fattest country with approximately half of the population overweight or obese.


A few years later, in 2022, the National Library of Medicine reported that Malaysia had the highest rate of diabetes in the Western Pacific region, and one of the highest in the world. The prevalence of diabetes had increased from 11.2 per cent in 2011, to 18.3 per cent in 2019.


The following year (2019), Malaysia’s National Health and Morbidity Survey estimated that one in five (that’s 20 per cent) adult Malaysians were living with diabetes, one in three were living with hypertension, and nearly half were overweight or obese.


More recently, in July 2023, the health minister was quoted as saying that four out of five adolescents did minimal physical activity.


I think the reading public are well aware by now that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the main cause of death and disability in Malaysia.


These reports are alarming, to say the least. However, being the eternal optimist, I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late, and I see huge public relations (PR) opportunities for a number of stakeholders to step up and take leadership in promoting health and fitness and encouraging Malaysians to lead a healthy lifestyle.


While it is comforting to note that the Health Ministry’s new leadership acknowledges that the country cannot go on with the healthcare system in its current form, and some discussions have been initiated to address that issue, what is more critical is educating and encouraging people about healthy habits and lifestyles.


While the ministry works on its “womb-to-tomb” healthcare white paper, we should remember that prevention is better than cure (when diet is wrong, medicine is of no use), and educating Malaysians on how to live and eat healthy could potentially save the nation hundreds of millions of ringgit.


Due to the potential impact on healthcare costs, the government ought to take the lead in this initiative. The education, health, higher education, women, family and community development, and youth and sports ministries all need to work together. Local councils also have a major role to play.


I’m proposing a nationwide campaign titled, Malaysia – Active, Healthy and Happy. The campaign objective is to encourage Malaysians to improve the quality of life and enjoy the benefits of good health by making informed choices every day.


Education and Health Ministries


For long-lasting effects, the primary target audience is school-going children. What we need to achieve is improved awareness and education about nutrition, healthy diet, eating in moderation, and the benefits of regular exercise (like walking) and good sleeping habits. So, the subject matter covered in school needs to be updated.


School-going children must also be provided with the facilities and opportunities for more outdoor physical activity. The simplest things are walking and team sports. For this, there needs to be an increase in exercise periods in the school timetable. Sports also helps to inculcate discipline, leadership qualities, and social skills.


Housing and Local Government Ministry and Local Councils


At the community level, the Housing and Local Government Ministry and Local Councils must allocate space (i.e., land) for more parks and recreational spaces, more facilities for walking, jogging, running tracks, more hiking routes, more open fields and courts for a variety of sports.


In Malaysia, the maintenance and upkeep of these facilities will be a key issue. In addition to being responsible for the upkeep, local councils will also have to play a role in educating the public to appreciate and take care of them.


The Private Sector


To support the campaign, there are PR opportunities aplenty for the private sector. There already are non-governmental organisations working on the ground with communities and they could do a lot more and have a much greater reach with the support and resources of the private sector. If every private entity pitched in to do their bit, and worked with the community in which they operate, we would see great success stories.


For example, property developers could support the healthy lifestyle by the design of projects, including more green spaces and exercise facilities, the insurance sector could get involved with initiatives promoting physical fitness, food manufacturers could educate about diet and nutrition, and universities could adopt B40 communities in a long-term commitment for health and wellness education. The image building, brand awareness, and goodwill from community outreach and corporate social responsibility (CSR) is priceless.


Being healthy isn’t a goal, it’s a way of living


The opportunities presented by long-term public-private partnerships are endless and only limited by imagination and creativity. It won’t be easy to get the general population on board with healthy living.


We have become too accustomed to fast food and copious amounts of sugar; and parents taking little children out for supper past 10pm is the norm.


I wonder if they are aware that good quality sleep is vital for brain health, particularly for growing and developing kids. Without enough sleep, certain cognitive (brain) functions may not work as effectively as they otherwise could.


It will be challenging to get people to unlearn old habits and introduce new behaviours into their daily routine, but we have to start somewhere because the long-term effects of our current lifestyle means a very scary future for the nation as a whole.


You’re probably now wondering how the country will fund this huge programme. I have a simple response: plug the leakages and eradicate corruption. The public’s taxes should be (rightly) used to benefit the public, not the corrupt.


If the government were to lead such an initiative, there would be a much lesser need for last-minute campaigning closer to election dates.


Malaysia – Cergas, Sihat dan Bahagia!

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