Archive for the ‘Children's Safety’ Category

Sabah health department will also focus on pre-schoolers to tackle HFMD in the state

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018
Dr Christina Rundi was speaking after launching the World Breastfeeding Week themed” Breastfeeding:Foundation of Life” at state Federal Administrative Complex here. Pix by Lano Lan

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Health department will also focus on children outside schools to tackle hand, foot and mouth disease in the state.

As of 3pm yesterday, the state recorded 2,611 cases, with 24 schools or classes still being closed.

The highest incidence of 564 cases was reported here, followed by Beaufort (393), Penampang (258) and Sandakan (221).

Its director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi said from their records, there were also cases involving children below the age of two who did not go to school.

“These children could either get it from their schooling siblings or contracted the disease while at public places.

“Whenever we detect a case, the department will also trace others (who might have been in contact with the infected person),” she said, adding there was an increase of cases but it was not drastic.

Dr Christina was speaking after launching the World Breastfeeding Week themed” Breastfeeding:Foundation of Life” at state Federal Administrative Complex here.

As for the Avian flu incidence in Tuaran, Dr Christina said teams from the department and the Veterinary Services were monitoring the situation on a daily basis.

Dr Christina Rundi was speaking after launching the World Breastfeeding Week themed” Breastfeeding:Foundation of Life” at state Federal Administrative Complex here. Pix by Lano Lan

“The H5N1 virus affects birds but it is also zoonotic in nature (which can be transmitted to humans).

“But for now, there is no transmission to humans at Kampung Kauluan,” she said.

Meanwhile, based on global data, only 67.4 per cent of babies were successfully given exclusive breastmilk for six months while only 45 per cent managed to continue the practice up to two years.

As of today, 21 government hospitals and 94 health clinics were recognised as having baby-friendly health facilities in Sabah.

“The health department also welcomes suggestions (from Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development) to have child care centres at our workplaces.

“We are looking seriously at whether identified opera.

By Olivia Miwil.

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Only one of 10 schools in Sabah affected by HFMD closed – director

Friday, July 20th, 2018

Maimunah Suhaibul

KOTA KINABALU: Ten schools from across state were reported to have been affected by the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), as of July 19.

These schools include SK Kiau of Kota Belud, SK Kepayan and SK St Francis Convent of Kota Kinabalu, SKJC Chung Hwa, SK Pelakat, SK Merintaman, SK Pekan and SK Lubok Darat of Sipitang, SK Kelatuan of Papar as well as a school in Sandakan.

However, State Education Director Datuk Hajah Maimunah Suhaibul clarified that not all of these schools would be closed. SJKC Chung Hwa was the only school that was ordered to close for of period 14 days.

“Only SJKC Chung Hwa has been closed so far. As for the rest of the schools, they were only ordered to close some of its classes. For instance, SK Kelatuan was only ordered to close its Standard Three classes,” Maimunah said when met at the Sabah Sports School Malaysia’s (SSMS) Outstanding Student Athletes’ Appreciation Ceremony on Thursday.

“SK Kiau has been closed since July 11. However, the (primary) school itself is not closed, only the pre-school is closed. There are two pre-school classes in that school. Actually, there were only two pre-school students that were infected,” she further clarified.

Maimunah advised the students who were infected to stay away from school and rest at home instead.
“I advise schools to be constantly alert with any updates regarding this issue. If any of their students are experiencing symptoms, they should report promptly,” Maimunah said.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Sabah had registered 1,605 cases of HFMD up until July 14, this year. State Health Department Director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi disclosed that an average of 58 cases were reported every week.

It is understood that HFMD can be caused by several types of viruses that infect children. The virus is spread through contact with the affected person¡¦s saliva, blister and infected stools.

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Crocodile sign put up at Likas Bay

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

A member from the Wildlife Rescue Unit setting up the crocodile trap at the Likas Bay.

KOTA KINABALU: The Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) has set up a sign warning people about the presence of crocodile(s) at the Likas Bay.

According to Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) spokesperson, Siti Nur’Ain Ampuan Acheh, members from WRU had also set up crocodile traps and were scouting the area for the reptile.

The action was meted out following a video recording of the crocodile at the Likas Bay that went viral on WhatsApp recently.

No crocodile has been caught yet and the effort to capture it is ongoing.

Nevertheless, the media was also informed that the SWD has no idea if there were more than one crocodile at the bay.

The warning signs from the department were set up at three different locations and people were warned against carrying out fishing activities or picnics.

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Marriage of 11-year-old girl illegal – Dr Wan Azizah

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The marriage between an 11-year-old girl and a 41-year-old man in Kelantan is illegal, according to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

She said this was because the marriage had not received the consent of the Syariah court as the girl was under the minimum legal age for marriage.

“The marriage is not legal and they must be separated,” she told a press conference after officiating an Aidilfitri open house with 2,000 asnaf orphans organised by Insaf Malaysia at the Setiawangsa Mini Stadium here on Sunday.

Present were Setiawangsa Member of Parliament Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and Insaf Malaysia president Ishak Abdul Kadir.

According to the Islamic Family Law Enactment which applies in all states, the minimum legal age for marriage is 18 for a male and 16 for a female. Those under the legal minimum age will only be permitted for marriage if they get the consent of the Syariah court and their parents.

Child marriage issue once again came into the spotlight after the news of a 41-year-old man who took a girl 30 years younger than him as his third wife went viral on social media, drawing flak from various parties since Friday.

Initial investigations by the Kelantan Welfare Department found that the marriage took place in Golok, Thailand and the girl’s parents were said to be Thai nationals.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said her ministry’s officials were still unable to locate the groom.


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Suhakam concerned that child marriage legalises paedophilia

Sunday, July 1st, 2018
PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is troubled that “possible paedophilia activity” can be legalised through child marriage.

Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail also expressed his concern that child marriage will encourage sexual violence against children.

“Suhakam is concerned that at present, religious justifications supported by law may be used to provide cover for paedophiles and child sexual predators who marry the children/victims,” said Razali in a statement on Sunday (July 1).

According to international standards, child marriage is defined as any marriage carried out below the age of 18.

In Malaysia, it is still legal for children below the age of 18 to be married under Islamic and civil laws.

Non-Muslim girls can marry as early as 16, provided they get the permission of the Chief Minister or Mentri Besar.

For Muslims, the minimum age of marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys. But exceptions can be made for girls or boys to marry at a younger age as long as they obtain the Islamic courts’ consent.

Customary law sets the minimum age to get married for girls at 16 and 18 for boys. A parent or legal guardian may give their written consent for underage marriages.

“Suhakam does not think enough has been done to end child marriages in Malaysia and believes zero tolerance of child marriage must be enforced at every root of society,” said Razali.
Razali, on behalf of Suhakam, called on Syariah court judges and the authorities to stop child marriages.

“(They) must be held accountable for perpetuating this egregious practice,” he said.

Razali said that there is no justification to child marriage and the rights of the child must be protected.

“Suhakam also calls on the new government to take a principled position on this issue and to keep to its election promise to all Malaysians to set the legal minimum age of marriage to 18 for all persons,” he said.
Ending child marriage by 2030 is among the targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that Malaysia has committed itself to.

“In the meantime, Suhakam recommends that the government and state religious bodies including the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) take active steps to inform the public about the detriments associated with underage marriages,” said Razali.

Razali also urged the Women, Children and Community Development Ministry to respond “more diligently” to the issue.
Razali’s comments come after news of a 41-year-old man marrying an 11-year-old girl.

The father of six took the girl as his third wife after he went to Golok, a border town in Narathiwat, southern Thailand, two weeks ago to have the marriage solemnised.

NGOs call for child marriage to be banned, criminalised

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Human Rights Society (Hakam) is calling for a ban on child marriage and for new laws to criminalise the act.

Its president, Professor Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh, said early marriages are a violation of human rights and the Convention on the Rights of a Child, of which Malaysia was a signatory.

“It is not sufficient to have laws allowing child marriage repealed. There must be laws that are put in place to prohibit and criminalise child marriage.

“Studies have shown that child marriage has devastating consequences especially for girls. Sadly, the problem is nothing new in Malaysia,” he said.

He said in 2010, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had revealed that there were close to 15,000 Malaysian girls in child marriages.

“The new government must take the initiative to come up with an action plan to protect Malaysian children especially girls from child marriage.

The National Human Rights Society (Hakam) is calling for a ban on child marriage and for new laws to criminalise the act. Pic by NSTP/ source from Social Media.

“The Pakatan Harapan (PH) manifesto included the introduction of a new law which sets 18 as the minimum age of marriage.

He urged the government to fulfil the pledge through the tabling of a law to eliminate child marriages at the coming parliament session.

“We also urge all Malaysians to contact their respective members of parliament to seek their commitment and support for the elimination of child marriages in Malaysia,” he added.

Meanwhile, Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) also called for immediate measures to be taken by the government to condemn child marriage through a legislative action.

“It’s appalling that this case has surfaced barely days after the ‘Girls Not Brides’ international conference held here, calling for a global ban on child marriage.

“This must be done by raising the marriageable age for all Malaysians, whether male or female, to 18-years-old, without exception.”

Muslim-majority countries that have raised the minimum age of marriage include Algeria (19 for both men and women), Bangladesh (18 for women and 21 for men), Morocco (18 for both men and women) and Turkey (which raised the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18 for women).

The marriage of an 11-year-old girl as the third wife of a 41-year-old Malaysian man on June 18 had went viral on social media, causing an uproar among Malaysians

The online posting by the man’s second wife was accompanied by several pictures with a caption that read: “Selamat pengantin baru suamiku (congratulations on your wedding, my husband). Suami 41, Maduku 11 tahun (My husband 41, his wife 11-years-old).”


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21 NGOs form council to tackle Sabah migrant, stateless issue

Monday, June 4th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Twenty-one Sabah non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have grouped together to form the Development of Human Resources Sabah Native Rights Council, which is aimed at resolving Sabah’s issues with migrants and stateless citizens.

Representatives of these groups, who met at the two-day workshop here yesterday, agreed to work to tackle problems relating to documentation, citizenship and stateless citizens at the grassroots level in their respective communities in the state.

“Through this initiative, we aim to offer assistance to those affected by statelessness and documentation problems in Sabah,” said Protem Yang-Dipertua, Dato’ Nani Bin Sakam, who said the council is ready to cooperate with state and federal governments on migrant issues.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Nani said the council is also planning to submit a list of resolutions to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal of certain state government policies that may need to be reviewed and liberalized.

“We are still in the process of finalizing these resolutions which is aimed addressing problems with citizenship, stateless residents facing Sabahans,” he said.

The final list of resolutions gathered from the discussions in the two-day workshop will be submitted to the Chief Minister.

Among members of the council’s pro-tem committee include Deputy Yang-Dipertua Datuk Mohd Kudar Datuk Abdul Kadir, Vice-Yang Dipertua, Dr Azlina Ikad, Secretary General Datuk Mohd Saidi Bin Bakal and Women’s Chief Halinda Awang Osman among others.

“The role of the committee is essentially important to connect the community with the government on a range of issues facing the people and the NGOs are more aware of the issues at the grassroots,” he said.


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Safety begins at school

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018
Lee (fifth from right; middle in blue) poses together with the SK Pulau Meranti pupils who are wearing safety helmets. With him are (from right) SK Pulau Meranti Parent-Teacher Association chairman Hasnan Abdullah, Gamuda Engineering Sdn Bhd Quality, Safety, Health and Environment head of department Andy Lee Choon Fooh and Mohammad Imran.

Lee (fifth from right; middle in blue) poses together with the SK Pulau Meranti pupils who are wearing safety helmets. With him are (from right) SK Pulau Meranti Parent-Teacher Association chairman Hasnan Abdullah, Gamuda Engineering Sdn Bhd Quality, Safety, Health and Environment head of department Andy Lee Choon Fooh and Mohammad Imran.

CONCERNED with the rise of accidents in schools in recent years, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has urged schools that are 20 years and older to conduct annual safety audits.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairman said through this measure, schools will be able to identify safety hazards such as unsafe electrical wiring or rusty school gates, so preventing the occurrence of more incidents.

“It is an important matter that must be addressed for the safety and health of pupils and teachers.

“A school is a place of work.

“Every workspace is subjected to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994, which states that any place of work with more than 40 employees must set up a safety and health committee.

“(Once set up), this committee can then discuss when they should carry out the audit and they can approach authorities such as the Public Works Department (JKR) to cooperate on the matter,” he said after launching Gamuda Berhad’s Safety at School programme at SK Pulau Meranti, Puchong.

Lee said safety audits are important, especially for older schools.

“Safety in schools cannot be ignored.

“Through this audit, we will know how conducive and safe an environment a school can provide for its pupils,” he said, adding that people often think of safety and health as a boring issue.

The Safety at School programme was introduced last year by Gamuda Engineering Sdn Bhd Quality, Safety, Health and Environment Department.

Gamuda Engineering Sdn Bhd business development director Datuk Mohammad Imran Ismail said the focus is to raise awareness on safety; pupils must be aware of the basics of personal protective equipment such as helmets and safety vests.

“Looking at the rise in the number of accidents in schools, some of which have been fatal, Gamuda Berhad believes safety begins in schools.

“Safety at Schools aims to raise greater awareness on quality, safety, health and the environment,” he said.

Two schools were selected for the programme last year, namely SK (Asli) Bukit Cheding, Jenjarom and SK Sungai Serai, Hulu Langat.

Due to the overwhelming response received, Gamuda selected three schools this year; SK Pulau Meranti, Puchong, SK Bukit Changgang, Banting and SK Bukit Kemuning, Shah Alam.

Games and quizzes are conducted and designed to test pupils’ knowledge based on the occupational safety and health talks given during the one-day programme.

The top five groups will be rewarded with prizes as an incentive to focus and perform throughout the sessions.

A demonstration will also be held to introduce basic personal protective equipment to pupils, who will be asked to volunteer to wear these equipment, thus providing them with hands-on experience.

Commending Gamuda on the initiative, Lee said such programmes ensure safety values are inculcated among students from a young age.

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Coping with student mental health

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

JUST earlier this month, the country was shocked by a suicide ­— a 20-year-old, a former Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia high achiever, jumped off a building in Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

It was reported that the tertiary student had just transferred to Seremban from an education institution in Kedah in the hope of doing better in her studies at the new place. Apparently she could not deal with the pressure to excel in her studies and succumbed to depression.

Students need to have rational expectations and a realistic perception of university life.

From suicide bids to self-harm and sleeping disorders to no-show at lectures and exams, such behaviours seem to be increasingly common at universities. The niggling question in the public’s mind is: Why is this happening? Is this indicative of the state of mental wellness among students on campus and, if so, how can the problem be dealt with?

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) counselling division senior counsellor Siti Fatimah Abdul Ghani said mental illness needs to be defined before delving into the issue.

“Everyone experiences stress from time to time and this is normal. Mental illness, on the other hand, is any condition that makes it difficult to function in daily life. It can affect your relationships, your job or prevent you from reaching an otherwise attainable goal,” she added.

If that sounds like a wide definition, Siti Fatimah said it is because the human mind is complex.

“Mental illness can range from anxiety and mood disorders, which have a severe and tangible effect on your emotions and motivation, to psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia which affect perceptions or senses, with symptoms like delusions or hallucinations. Living with any of these can be debilitating. We rely on our senses, emotions and perceptions to get us through the day. When any of those fail, it can make life difficult.”

A study by researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Department of Community Health, Department of Psychiatry and Department of Family Medicine published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry in 2013 sought to assess the prevalence of depression, anxiety and stress, and identify their correlates among university students.

It covered 506 students between the ages of 18 and 24 years from four universities in the Klang Valley, who answered an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire.

Analysis showed among all the respondents, 27.5 per cent had moderate, and 9.7 per cent had severe or extremely severe depression; 34 per cent had moderate, and 29 per cent had severe or extremely severe anxiety; and 18.6 per cent had moderate and 5.1 per cent had severe or extremely severe stress scores based on the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 inventory.

Both depression and anxiety scores were significantly higher among older students (20 and above) and those born in rural areas. Stress scores were significantly higher among older students (20 and above), females, Malays and those whose family had either low or high incomes compared to those with middle incomes.

The study concluded that the prevalence of anxiety is much higher than either depression or stress, with some differences in their correlates except for age. It was recommended that these differences be further explored for development of better intervention programmes and appropriate support services targeting this group.


UPM Psychiatry Department head Associate Professor Dr Firdaus Mukhtar said, in general, undergraduates undergo challenges in managing their daily lives in a university environment.

The changes experienced in transitioning from a secondary school student to an undergraduate may affect them in the biological, physical, spiritual and psychological aspects.

Students who cannot manage the challenges — which can be due to high expectations, poor social support, lack of coping skills, financial and academic struggles, family factor and so on — may experience emotional distress.

“Whether overseas or at local universities, there are no exceptions where students experiencing emotional turmoil — including mental disorders — are concerned. This distress may lead to other extreme conditions such depression, anxiety, trauma and more.

“However, difficulties in adjusting to university life do not generally lead to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar and personality disorder.”

Dr Firdaus added that everyone reacts differently to a new environment.

“Adjustment is unique to each of us. The process of adjustment starts at the beginning of the semester after enrolment and when attending classes, making friends, moving into new accommodation, living far away from parents, and facing different attitudes of lecturers and the academic and university culture.

“Therefore, it is important to expose students to mental health education such as stress management, emotion regulation programme and coping skills training for them to identify and be aware of the symptoms — stress and related illnesses — that may prevent them from functioning normally,” she said.

Symptoms of mental health problems include difficulty in sleeping, lack of focus, inability to make decisions, lack of motivation, withdrawal from friends and activities, low self-esteem, sadness and fear for no reason.

“The earlier treatment is sought, the better.”

For serious cases that involve major psychiatric illnesses, a referral to psychiatrists and clinical psychologists is needed.

“The counselling section or the university’s health care centre may refer those cases that need psychiatric evaluation and psychotherapy.”

Allocate time for leisure.

In certain cases, those who have been diagnosed with learning or anxiety disorders may get certain exemptions or be allowed more time during examinations or submission of assignments. Dasar Kesihatan Negara provides that those who have been diagnosed with mental disorders should be given their rights just like others regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnicity.

“Many students, who had sought the help of counsellors, psychologists or psychiatrists, were able to finish their studies, graduate and hold a good post in their career. Once students are aware of their illness, get treated and motivated to excel academically, nothing can stop them from achieving their dreams.”


So, how best can students take preventive measures so as not to succumb to mental illness?

Marian.E Arumugam, the head of Counselling and Psychological Services Centre and Health Services Centre at Taylor’s University, said students should take time to explore the university, understand the expectations of the programme, be confident to ask questions and find out as much information as possible on the programme they are interested in from course advisers and faculty staff on open days.

“Time management is important: maintaining a sense of routine for self-care, studies and delivering the course work. Learn to manage and limit communication technology, as too much becomes a distraction and can isolate the student and interfere with academic performance. Keep socially engaged with peers. Be open-minded, accepting of individual differences and non-judgmental,” she said.

Lee Siok Ping, director of Student LIFE at Sunway Education Group, underlined the importance of self-awareness and self-care.

“Self-awareness is about having knowledge of one’s thoughts, feelings, coping mechanisms, preferences, skills and strengths. It is the ability to be aware of what is happening to oneself, what leads one to feel or think that way, and what can you do about it.

“Meanwhile, self-care is being able to take care of one’s needs both on a daily basis as well as in a crisis. Many a time, students neglect to take care of their own needs such as making sure they eat proper meals, have enough time for leisure activities, sleep adequately and socialising regularly, when they are preoccupied with studies or when they are experiencing stressful life events,” she said.

It is paramount that students take care of themselves especially during challenging times as it allows them to restore emotional energy which then boosts their capacity to deal with challenges more effectively.

Dr Firdaus highlighted there are three roles that can help prevent mental illness during university life: students, family and the relevant authority at the institution.

“Students need to have rational expectations and a realistic perception of university life and the courses that they sign up for. Join orientation week to get to know the university lifestyle, balance academic and non-academic activities, socialise with healthy peers and get in touch closely with the management of the university to improve personal, academic and career development.


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Obesity among Asia-Pacific children is a growing health crisis, say researchers.

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018
Unhealthy diet: The rise in the consumption of processed foods, which often contain excess fats, salt and sugar, is one of the main contributors to the rapid rise in obesity among young people in Asia-Pacific.

Unhealthy diet: The rise in the consumption of processed foods, which often contain excess fats, salt and sugar, is one of the main contributors to the rapid rise in obesity among young people in Asia-Pacific.

OBESITY rates among children in Asia-Pacific are rising at a rapid rate, and more action is needed to encourage healthier lifestyles and ease pressure on fledgling healthcare systems, researchers say.

The number of overweight children under five rose 38% between 2000 and 2016 in the region, and the problem is growing, according to Sridhar Dharmapuri, a food safety and nutrition officer at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Bangkok.

“The rate of growth in obesity in Asia-Pacific is higher than in many other countries,” Dharmapuri told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“While the United States leads the way on obesity rates, the number of overweight children in Asia-Pacific is rising rapidly, and many countries in this region are now among the most health-threatened in the world.

But the rapid rise in obesity among young people in Asia-Pacific is worrying because overweight children are at higher risk of becoming obese as adults and then developing serious health problems like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease.

Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand are among the most overweight countries in South-East Asia, while Samoa, Tonga and Nauru are the most overweight in the Pacific. Australia also has high rates of obesity.

Many of these nations are also struggling to tackle malnutrition among their citizens.

The cost to the Asia-Pacific region of citizens being overweight or obese is US$166bil (RM646.2bil) a year, a recent report by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) said.

Rising wealth levels over the last 20 years have played a major role in the rise in obesity levels, researchers say.

“The region has undergone economic growth, so food has become available at a relatively cheaper price,” said Matthias Helble, an economist at ADBI in Tokyo.

“For the last 20 years the economic growth has been almost uninterrupted,” said Helble, who has researched obesity levels in the region for three years.

In addition to consuming more, as economies have grown, people in Asia-Pacific have moved away from farming into manufacturing, and then to service sector jobs – which are more sedentary.

Cities in Asia-Pacific have also seen unprecedented growth over the last two decades; this year more than half the region’s population will for the first time be urban, the United Nations has estimated.

City-dwellers in Asia-Pacific can spend hours commuting – due to poor transport systems and infrastructure – and when they finally reach home they have little time to cook. Many opt to eat out.

This new lifestyle has caused a rise in the consumption of convenience and processed foods, which often contain excess fats and more salt and sugar.

People in the region also struggle to maintain a balanced diet, said Dharmapuri, with meals often lacking vegetables.

“The diet is largely rice-based,” he said. “On anybody’s plate, rice takes up between 50-70% of the space.”

When people are overweight they often suffer from other health problems, economists said, and this is likely to put pressure on public healthcare systems that are only just being established in many Asia-Pacific nations.

Absenteeism from work is also higher among obese people, said Helble, adding that overweight people often die earlier than those who lead healthy lives, so have a shorter productive life.

“The term ‘obesogenic environment’ has been used to describe an environment that promotes obesity among individuals and populations,” Elizabeth Ingram of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – a government statistics agency – said by e-mail.

“It includes physical, economic, political, and sociocultural factors.”

Fixing the problem will likely take years, and researchers said a joint effort by business and governments was needed.

Better labelling on foods to promote healthier options, education about healthier diets and lifestyles, and even healthier school meals would improve the situation, analysts said.

Sugar taxes, which have been introduced or are being discussed in the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia, are also one way to change people’s mindset, said Helble.

Building more sports facilities at schools and ensuring urban planners include recreational areas for cities and make them more walkable and less polluted, is also crucial.

Governments must work with retailers, like in Singapore, to create a coordinated approach on packaging and promote a balanced diet, researchers said.

Working with retailers to ban unhealthy and sweet foods from checkout areas, and pushing street vendors to switch from fried foods to healthier, more traditional options, are also key.

And countries should adopt a “farm to fork” approach, which encourages farmers to diversify what they grow and be less reliant on growing just rice, said Dharmapuri.

“In some Pacific island countries, it’s actually easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than buy fruits and vegetables,” he added.

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