KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has allegedly failed to address the alarming increase in non-communicable, or chronic, diseases (NCD) in the country.
Three Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers, two of them doctors, today pinned the blame on the ministry which they said “failed to appreciate preventive measures and institute the right actions” to address the ‘crisis’.
PKR MP Dr Azman Ismail (Kuala Kedah) told a press conference that despite receiving more than RM18 billion budget allocation for 2013, the Ministry has mainly encouraged people to exercise, but that was "not good enough".
“Exercise is actually a good thing, but it is not good enough because among the leading factors that cause NCD is that nutritional factors, according the journals and scientific papers,” said Azman.
Azman, who was together with DAP MPs Dr Ko Chun Sen (Kampar) and Seah Leong Peng (Teluk Intan), said that experts agree that 70-80% of these diseases are due to the food one takes.
“These include omega fat imbalance, which leads to inflammation), excessive sugar consumption, refined carbohydrates and chemicals in the foods,” he said.
Azman said all these elements are commonly found in processed foods, and advised the public to take traditional foods.
“Traditional fats such as coconut oil, butter, coconut shavings, palm oil, ghee and lard are considered healthy, while man-made fats and trans fat is dangerous,” he explained.
He said processed foods, including breakfast cereals, are also unhealthy.
“We can have a total ban on trans fats. It is known and proven to be causing all these diseases and many people are unaware. In Denmark, Austria, Holland, California, they have banned it so much so that even their fastfood have become more healthy.”
Azman said that according to figures in 2010, there were 35,000 Malaysians who died due to heart attacks and strokes alone.
“Those figures don’t take into account of cancer, kidney problems and other diseases and leave more and more people maimed or disabled,” he said.
Azman said that victims are becoming younger and involve every level of society, adding that he gets at least two cases every week in his clinic in Kedah. He added that many of his patients were fishermen and farmers and were not even obese.
Citing more alarming statistics, Azman said that Malaysia is one of the highest number of such cases in the world. He said that Malaysia was the “Number One” country when it comes to the number of diabetics and obese people among all Asean countries.
“We have 3.6 million diabetics and this has surpased predictions by the World Health Organisation which says that Malaysia is expected to have 807,000 by 2025.”
Meanwhile, Dr Ko, a cardiologist, said that the problem is not just confined to the affluent but also affect the poor.
“It is mainly due to wrong diet. Sufferers from working and lower classes. Malaysia has yet to achieve high income but we already have all the diseases of the western world,” he said.
Ko said that these problems are exacerbated by the lack of informaiton by the government and lack of regulation, such as the display of nutritional information in restaurants and food products.
A few days ago, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said NCDs are the leading cause of hospital admission and mortality in Malaysia.
Subramaniam also said NCD is also the highest cause of premature death in the country.
"NCD is a global pandemic. Based on the World Health Organisation's report in 2005, NCD contributed to 75 per cent of global disease burden where 60 per cent involved death.
"Death caused by NCD is expected to increase 17 per cent over the next 10 years and statistic shows that one in every five Malaysians aged above 30 is suffering from diabetes," he said.
NCD include non-infectious such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension, cancer, obesity, osteoporosis and more.
In Malaysia, obesity is the current health problem with 8.5 million Malaysians having weight problem. About 4.4 million people, roughly one in three, are categorised as obese.