Anti-obesity law a healthy step, say dieticians

PHOTO: Anti-obesity law a healthy step, say dieticians

KUALA LUMPUR - Dieticians support the Health Ministry's proposed move to introduce an anti-obesity law by 2020.

Prince Court clinical dietician Tan Yen Sing (above, right) said the move would encourage Malaysians to watch their diet.

"This is an excellent law to begin with. I think Malaysians should look at Japan as the right model in implementing this law, seeing how successful that country is in this effort."

She said the drawing up of the law should be expedited in view of the alarming increase in the country's obesity rate.

Asked if it would be too much for employees to comply with a government-imposed waistline standard, she said this should be a motivation for employees with weight-related ailments to work out to meet the criteria.

"There should be no human rights issues or fear of discrimination in recruitment as the intention is to help the employees to lead a better life and raise their self-esteem.

"This, in turn, would benefit the employers as having fit employees would mean fewer workers on sick leave and higher productivity. Tasks and assignments can also be done more efficiently."

Tan said some big companies in the country had started such programmes in which overweight employees had to undergo health programmes to lose weight and stay fit.

"People should understand that obesity could potentially lead to other ailments such as cancer, diabetes and heart-related diseases. This is why we should expedite such a law."

Clinical dietician Ng Aia Kah, meanwhile, said such a law could be introduced but the government should look at different ways of implementation.

"Instead of copying what Japan does for its people, why don't we come out with our own version of the law?"

She said the onus should be on Malaysians to ensure healthy eating, as this greatly contributed to the obesity problem.

She said other forms of implementation could include requiring restaurants to post calorie counts or urging office cafes to stop serving unhealthy food.

"The employees should also be taught about the food they must consume and avoid, regardless of how stressful their jobs are."

Ng said the government should also encourage employers to invest in wellness programmes as a way to educate and motivate employees.

She said placing the burden on employers by penalising them if employees failed to meet the standard waistline requirement, as practised in Japan, was not feasible.

"The idea is to instil awareness in the people that being slim and fit isn't just about the law. It's the price you pay to live a better life."