Monday, April 18, 2011


I read with interest, the Minister of Health's announcement this morning, that there are about 1.7 million obese kids in Malaysia. He announced that 30% of kids are overweight and another 30% are obese. Therefore, he has asked teachers to record the child's BMI ( body mass index ), on the child's report card, and if they are obese, to let the parents know, so that remedial actions can be taken. He however, did not specify on what cut off level is used in his definition of obesity and overweight. Whether it will be 24-20 for overweight and >30 for obesity. Some will shift that goal post a bit lower, so as to have more on weight reduction programs so as to nip the butt earlier, in our fight against chronic life-style diseases.
He has also announce the MOH's intention to ban soft drinks and junk food from the school canteens and also hawkers outside the school premises. These bans has widespread consequences. All these measures from the medical standpoint, are very commendable.
Now we await, the parent's response, and also the NGO's response. Somehow, I cannot help but feel that it is not so simple. can you imagine banning soft drinks and junk food? I wonder where the catch is? Is there a new company selling measuring devices for measuring BMI to MOH or Ministry of Education? In our clinic, we use a weighing scale and also a height ruler. Is there a vendor with connection, about to market these products ( ? inflated prices ), to schools and government clinics. It is so wrong of me to feel this way, but, I can't help but feel that way.
Of course, theoretically, BMI is individual medical information and cannot be displayed without the " patient's consent", except if you feel that this is a police state where the good of the country override individual freedom, and patient confidentiality. Should we start with weight ( a noble thing to do ), where do we end? Should we also allow our records about diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc to be display for public view? Should children with "thalassemia" or " rare blood groups" have their personal information be displayed? Where is the end?
Will children ( boys and girls ) with a BMI of 35 be the butt of jokes and humiliated in their schools, and ostracized? Worse still, will it cause girls to develop anorexia nervosa, in an attempt not to be obese. There are psychological issues here. Are we about to have schools for kids with BMI 20-24, and then for the rest.
These are all factors to consider, before drawing out such a policy, however good the intentions maybe. Were the "Parent-Teachers association" and the teacher's union been consulted for advice?, or is it another of those shooting off the hip political announcements, just for the occasion. " We are so cynical" are we not?
I trust that the YB minister has, but somehow, I am not too confident that they have.
Anyway, it is an announcement, and we have heard many government announcements where it remains just an announcement.
Malaysia boleh.

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