Do more or fat chance Malaysia will reduce obesity, govt told

KUALA LUMPUR - The Government needs to be more serious in battling obesity, the Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity says.

Its president Prof Dr Mohd Ismail Noor said that creating awareness and public education were not enough.

"At some point, the government has to be more serious about controlling the environment that encourages obesity."

He said this yesterday after the official launch and opening of Nutrition Month Malaysia 2014 by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

Dr Mohd Ismail urged the local authorities to shut down all food outlets by midnight instead of allowing them to run 24 hours.

He said the argument that these outlets were kept open for night shift workers did not hold water because many youngsters were frequenting the outlets.

He noted that some countries had imposed a tax on sweet soda drinks.

While the Government needed to be more committed in battling obesity, he added it was also everyone's responsibility and required a multi-pronged approach.

Asked whether the Health Minist­ry would limit the number of 24-hour food outlets, Dr Subramniam said the emphasis was still on educating people about good eating habits.

"You ban them or you educate people not to use them.

"Life's temptations will always exist but you need to educate them," he said.

As to why the Government had yet to create the healthy environment for people to walk or expend their energy (safe walk and bicycle paths along roadways) that was planned many years ago, Dr Subramaniam said the problem was in the implementation.

"There must be greater emphasis on adhering to government policy and guidelines by local authorities," he said.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey revealed that the rate of obesity in Malaysia had increased by almost three and a half times, from 4.4 per cent in 1996 to 15.1 per cent in 2011.

This puts the number of obese Malaysians at around 2.5 million.

The Nutri-Fun Land Family Carnival is held at Mid Valley Exhibition Hall 1 in conjunction with the Nutrition Month. It ends today.