Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia

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Early path to good health

MALAYSIA has one of the highest prevalence of diabetes mellitus (DM) in the world. According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015, 17.5% of Malaysians aged 18 and above are diabetic. This is more than twice the world’s average at 8.5%.

MALAYSIA has one of the highest prevalence of diabetes mellitus (DM) in the world. According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015, 17.5% of Malaysians aged 18 and above are diabetic. This is more than twice the world’s average at 8.5%.

To make thing worse, almost 40% of our population are overweight and more than half are considered physically inactive (World Health Organisation 2016). These pools of obese and sedentary citizens are exposed to great risks of DM onset.

With such a high rate of DM prevalence, one must wonder what was done or could have been done by our policymakers.

To be fair, Malaysia has a decent and comprehensive strategy in DM treatment and control. This includes follow-up care settings that provide free service to 1.1 million diabetic patients (2014), diabetes resource centres in public hospitals that deliver professional diabetes education to both inpatients and outpatients, and the provision of seven classes of oral antihyper­glycemic drugs as well as injectable insulin to patients with severe DM.

So, what else could have been done? The WHO Diabetes Country Profiles 2016 highlighted that Malaysia currently has no operational policy nor action plan on reducing physical inactivity among its population. The same report indicated that 52% are considered physically inactive. Lack of physical exercise and increased prevalence of obesity have always accompanied the rise in DM.

Moreover, scientific studies concluded that diet, exercise and behaviour modifications remain the current cornerstones of obesity and DM control.

Physical education or Pendidikan Jasmani has long been a neglected subject in public schools. Nowadays, schools are often more focused on achieving academic excellence and some might even use the physical education period for other purposes.

It’s time now to revitalise physical education in our public schools. Proper delivery of any school subject must follow a sound and comprehensive syllabus, evidence- based pedagogical methods, and fair assessment of the learners’ performance.

An effective physical education programme should raise awareness and knowledge on health issues. More importantly, it should foster a culture of physical fitness bottom-up, and this can only be done when our children are encouraged, motivated and properly guided to achieve physical fitness in school.

Outside of school, parents play even bigger roles in bringing up their children to adopt healthy lifestyles. I must also point out that the overindulgence on smartphones and other electronic gadgets must be avoided at all costs. Use of these products has certainly promoted a sedentary lifestyle and may even impair the social and emotional development of children.

To conclude, physical education in public schools is a good entry point to work on this societal transformation. The Government does not need a brand new policy or platform. It just needs to revitalise a school subject that has been overlooked for years.

DR JAMES WOON SY-KEEN

Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia

Iskandar Puteri, Johor

published on: 20 August 2018