Low wages, long working hours, high cost of living and lack of infrastructures cited as reasons why people were unhealthy.
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“Some of us are too poor, too tired, have little time, and few places to go to lead balanced and healthy lives,” was the answer Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (KJ) got following the launch of the Agenda Nasional Malaysia Sihat (ANMS) public health campaign on Thursday (11 November).
This new-new national health agenda aims to better our society’s wellbeing and address concerns that Malaysia was, is, and should no longer be an unhealthy nation.
Touching on topics like cardiovascular wellness, nutrition, chronic illnesses and mental health, KJ concurred that the rakyat needed an attitude adjustment to get themselves healthy without depending on the government.
However, opinions online indicated that there is still a long list of things that the government needs to address before they can get away hands-free that easily.
Comments from social media users point to three main concerns as to why Malaysians are generally unhealthy physically, mentally and emotionally that policymakers need to pick up on if they were serious to improve the nation’s health.
1. Low wages and long working hours
Malaysians who work regular blue-collar and white-collar jobs are pressed for time and are not paid well enough to live healthily.
Netizens pointed out that some people lack the money, time and energy to either prepare or purchase healthy food, exercise or visit the doctors without a healthy work-life balance.
“My colleagues and I work in the mall for five days per week, 12 hours per day. After a workday, most of us do not have the time and energy to prepare food for that night and the day after,” shared one commenter.
“We cannot afford to eat healthy food. We have to work more hours. Too tired to work out. Health becomes a luxury,” another commenter wrote.
While one comment said “Overworked, underpaid people stuck in transports for hours surrounded by concrete jungles.” echoing many who believe that most Malaysians have few opportunities to spend time on themselves.
2. High cost of living and expensive food
Netizens also bring up the point that the cost of living in most parts of the country was expensive, to say the least, and that the public simply could not afford the luxury of healthy habits.
Again, the topic of wages, as well as accessibility to healthy meals and medical attention were referred to as reasons why many people were struggling with staying healthy.
A previous commenter gave a simple cultural reference and explained that “It’s very simple why Malaysians don’t have a healthy diet. A lot of Malaysians know too many carbs are unhealthy. But we still eat a lot of rice because it’s cheap and filling at the same time. Fruits and vegetables are healthier but more expensive and less filling.”
“Leading a healthy lifestyle is expensive, high cost of good quality food, supplements, non-existent work-life balance.” wrote another.
“Healthy food ain’t that cheap my boi. Maggie sup very cheap,” joked another commenter, still addressing how eating healthy can sometimes dig into a person’s budget.
3. Unhealthy infrastructure and lack of facilities
“Malaysia was not built for a healthy society,” was the thought expressed by many who pointed out that our cities, towns and even kampungs lack the infrastructure and facilities for its citizens to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Netizens explained that most parts of the country were too car-centric and not pedestrian-friendly enough, and the lack of green and public spaces was also cited as a barrier for the public to keep physically and mentally well.
“I would walk more if Malaysia is more public transport friendly but we’re not.” wrote a commenter saying how even things like public transportation plays a role in people’s health.
“Gym fees and facilities are not cheap and not available everywhere. Open spaces and recreational parks are small, limited, too far, crowded.” explained one commenter.
“Well maybe if you provided more greenery and parks and naturally-shaded walkways, maybe people would be keener to take a walk after a meal.” shared another.
While others say that we must also think of the children and question “ How are we gonna stay and eat healthy when we aren’t even being taught since young how to eat healthy starting from school? The school cafeteria always serves oily food and sweet drinks like sirap to the kids.”
Typing out trending topics and walking the fine line between deep and dumb.