KUALA LUMPUR: The move to introduce new policies to promote a healthier nation has been deemed as timely, despite mixed reactions from various stakeholders.
Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) president Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason said the move was apt and called the people to support it.
“Just look at our Malaysian lifestyle now. The obesity rate is high; many suffer from diabetes, hypertension, and heart problems.
“Prevention is better than cure and this is a good initiative, making people start with the government’s nudge,” he told the New Straits Times.
He said steps such as gazetting public parks and providing cycling lanes were positive moves that would allow the people to be more interested to step out and exercise.
Marimuthu said although health was an individual issue, the government has a role to play in providing a suitable health policy for the masses as the people were under their responsibility.
“If the government do not take actions now, it will be a burden in the future as the younger generation will keep falling sick and this could affect the country’s productivity,” he said.
He praised policies such as limiting the operation hours of 24-hour eateries, imposing excise tax on sweetened beverages and regulating food advertisements.
He stated that this was a bold but necessary decision.
Despite the Health Ministry’s good intention to promote a healthy living to the people, Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public Service (Cuepacs) president Datuk Azih Muda questioned the move to take into consideration one’s fitness level as a benchmark for career advancement.
“We welcome the new policies to keep people healthy but it is unreasonable for civil servants’ career development to be tied to their health.
“Some job requirements may be determined by their state of health but not all and this should be debated first.
“We see many in the Health Ministry looking unhealthy and unfit. Please start within (the ministry) first before applying it to everyone in the service,” he said, adding that Cuepacs is not ready to accept this new policy.
Azih has asked for the Health Ministry to include Cuepacs during its discussion for a fair representation of all.
It was reported that civil servants must keep themselves healthy as their non-communicable diseases risk levels will be taken into consideration not only during the hiring process but also in determining promotions, or in performance evaluation.
Meanwhile, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) vice president Datuk Wan Hashimi Albakri welcomed the proposal to promote a “green neighbourhood” but questioned if medium and small-sized developers were willing to implement it.
He also raised the issue as to whether local councils were equipped to maintain these green initiatives such as the mandatory bicycle lanes.
He said many developers such as Sime Darby Property Bhd have already started including various green initiatives such bicycle and walking lanes as well as ponds in line with the company’s wellness and quality living theme.
However, he said there were also certain developers that were not willing to follow through due to budget constraints.
Wan Hashimi, who is also Sime Darby Property Bhd’s chief operation and transformation officer, said the government should have organised a dialogue with stakeholders first before making this blanket policy.
“We should support the government’s call for a greener living but there are thousands of developers involved and we, as Redha, needs to get the feedback first from them.
“The Health Ministry needs to engage us before committing to it because there are some willing to do so and have resources while others may face some issues.
“The local authorities must also be able to maintain and keep it in good pristine condition. Once the development is ready, it will be handed to them, thus they will be responsible for it.
“We do not want it to be just another knee-jerk reaction but one that is successful,” he said.
National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) president Kamarozaman Abd Razakin said these new policies were in line with the latest Primary School Assessment Report (PPSR) implementation that will come into force next year.
He said PPSR will empower students to be more active, stating that they will be able to have more non-academic classes such as sports and music.
“When it is too exam oriented, students become lazy to work out but with the new outline, they will have the chance to move around, have fun, and be more active.
“This will definitely promote a healthier lifestyle,” he said.
As for food in schools, he said the Education Ministry has already been working closely with the Health Ministry to ensure food sold at canteens were within the set regulations.
He welcomed more strict changes to the student’s diet in the future as well as encouraged more nutritional education so they would learn to avoid junk food outside of school.