Obesity Among Malaysian Students: Who is at fault?

In response to Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia’s (KKM) statement to enforce BMI to be listed in report cards and my recent discussion on this very topic on Astro Awani, I just want to share my view on this topic – Rising Obesity Among Malaysian Students.

Menteri Kesihatan, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai berkata, sebelum ini BMI tidak dicatat dalam kad laporan pelajar menyebabkan ibu bapa tidak dapat mengawal pemakanan anak-anak mereka kerana tidak tahu sama ada berat badan anak mereka ideal, terlebih berat atau mengalami obesiti.

I really do not understand Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia’s obsession with BMI (Body Mass Index). BMI here, BMI there. We all know what it is but do you really think that parents need to see their kids BMI to tell them that they need to lose weight? If they truly are their parents and see their kids daily, they don’t need anyone telling them that their kids are underweight, normal or obese. Why? Coz its right in front of them.
BMI is such a primitive way to gauge someone’s weight to health ratio. Its too simplistic. Is does not consider the students bodytype, muscle mass etc. Read more about BMI and Apakah Berat Badan Anda Yang Ideal.

So why are Malaysian students overweight?

That is the real question. Let’s break it down and see who is responsible and what can be done.

…To parents: your children’s well-being is your responsibility. Making sure they eat well is your responsibility. Putting rules in place, going out to play, outdoor activities, leading by example all are your responsibilities..

  • Student: Is the student at fault? Well yes and no. I would not blame primary students for lack of awareness or know-how as they purely reply on the guidance of those around them. BUT for secondary students, they should know better and be the first to realize that they ought to do something about their weight and appearance.
  • Parents: Of course you are at fault. Parents should never use their careers as an excuse. Your children’s well-being is your responsibility. Making sure they eat well is your responsibility. Putting rules in place, going out to play, outdoor activities, leading by example all are your responsibilities.
  • Teachers: Well they are educators but I would not place weight management for students as their responsibility. It is a bonus if they take a personal and pro-active interest in a students weight. But if a student comes up to you and asks “Teacher, teacher … how do I lose weight?”, you should or rather must know the answer.
  • Kantin sekolah: Well yeah but they are a commercial entity and will supply what is in demand. That is the cruel reality. A solution? Well either limit the food options to mainly healthy options so that the canteen operator can still make a decent profit and/or municipalize (opposite of privatize) the whole canteen so that everything is controlled by the schools.
  • Facebook: Well not FB but rather the whole internet revolution, gaming and technology is probably to blame for an ever so dormant lifestyle. What to do? It is what it is but here again, parents and students must find activities, set rules to balance their lives.
  • Government? Well I don’t think it is fair to put all the blame on the government. The responsibility to stay healthy is ours. But if I were to raise a concern, it is that our education system DOES NOT encourage all students to be active. I have blogged about this numerous times. This probably is the joint responsibility of the Health, Sports and Education Ministries.

The bottom line is …

If you are a teacher, parent or student and are reading this article, to overcome obesity, you need to be in control! This means you need to know 1) what caused it and 2) how are you going to take control and overcome it. This requires know-how.
The bottom line, if a child comes up to you and asks “How do I lose 5kg?” …. you should know and answer “well, 5kg adds up to 38500 calories. Now if you want to lose that many calories, you need to come up with a proper weight loss plan that may involve a better meal plan, exercise or a combination of the two”.

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