By YS Chan
The privilege accorded to government servants to subsidised or free healthcare should not be totally unconditional.
But the terms and conditions must not be rigid as insurance policies.
The fact that Malaysia is the fattest country in Asia proves that many people are incapable of controlling their food intake on their own. It warrants government intervention.
The health ministry should be congratulated for taking the initiative, which would save huge sums of taxpayers’ money.
Doubling the current number of government hospitals and clinics, which are already bursting at their seams, would not be enough if Malaysians continue with their unhealthy lifestyle of overeating and under-exercising.
We take pride in our Malaysian food, made delicious and appetizing with generous doses of oil, salt, sugar, spices and artificial flavouring or colouring.
This is made worse by eating too much of our favourite foods when what our body needs is what we don’t eat or too little, such as vegetables and fruits.
Horrendously, food is washed down with over-sweetened teh tarik or cold drinks that are equivalent to several teaspoons of sugar.
Whether for buffet or catered meals, plain hot water is not provided to dilute or replace super-sweet coffee or tea.
Leaders with true leadership qualities would have to be cruel to be kind, whereas those who just wish to be popular would choose expediency.
But implementation must be tampered with compassion and the objective is to rehabilitate, not punish.
Those found obese or suffering from non-communicable diseases should be given the opportunity to undergo rehabilitation, while those who refuse or make no attempts to do so should have their jobs terminated.
This is already provided for in many jobs in the private sector, such as commercial vehicle drivers.
They are required to pass medical examinations every year before they are allowed to renew their commercial vehicle driving licences.
But this condition is poorly enforced, resulting in a large number of commercial vehicles being handled by drivers with health issues and who are a danger to other road users and themselves.
If the health ministry’s latest initiative to implement healthy living is well implemented, the first beneficiaries would be the government servants, who would otherwise join the ranks of those who are obese and unfit.
Life is a great equaliser. We can choose to enjoy our food now with wild abandon and suffer the consequence later, or discipline ourselves with our diet and regular exercise, and enjoy a healthy and happy life with our loved ones.
Many Malaysians succumb to society norms, with eating being our favourite pastime.
Hosts are considered gracious when they offer more food than anyone can eat.
People certainly need to be nudged into changing their unhealthy lifestyle.
Such a transformation must be led by the government, and large corporations would follow suit, with the rest coming on board later.
This will make a better, healthier and happier Malaysia.
If not, there would be untold suffering by those falling ill, bringing countless misery to their loved ones.
YS Chan is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.