Photo - (From left) Thomas Wong, Chief Marketing Officer, AIA Bhd; Indra Balaratnam, Consultant Dietitian, Founder & Owner of Indra Balaratnam Nutrition - The Food Expert Clinic; Jamie Yu, Chief Officer, AIA Health Services Sdn. Bhd; and Dr. George Lee, Consultant Urologist and Men's Health Expert.
AIA has launched an online campaign to nudge Malaysians into becoming more proactive about their health as both healthcare costs and lifestyle related diseases are on the increase, said the insurance company.
The campaign, called The Health Report Card by AIA, also continues the company's drive to digital transformation and big data analytics in the region, said AIA's chief marketing officer Thomas Wong during the launch in Kuala Lumpur.
"Our insights show that many Malaysians spend most of their time worrying about the wellbeing of their loved ones, be it their children, their spouses or their parents, and as a result, they tend to overlook their own health," said Wong. "We hope that our message will inspire all Malaysians to first look inward and start adopting lifestyle habits that will allow them to lead longer and healthier lives."
"Children are very observant by nature, and as such, it was fascinating to get their candid responses to questions on their parents' health," he added, as he unveiled findings from a quick survey among some 200 primary school students in the Klang Valley who were asked about their parent's health.
"Unsurprisingly, their responses reflected what we probably know, but are reluctant to admit - that we do not exercise enough, we spend too much time at work or on our mobile devices, and our diets are not as nutritious as they should be," said Wong. "Are we setting a good example for our children or will the cycle of poor lifestyle choices continue into the next generation?"
'Malaysia - fattest country in Southeast Asia'
Lifestyle-related diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol are on the rise in Malaysia. Recent reports place Malaysia as the fattest country in Southeast Asia, cases of diabetes and kidney disease are in the millions (3.2 million and 2.5 million patients, respectively, in 2014) and one in four Malaysians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer before their 75th birthday, he said,
"The rise in lifestyle-related diseases can be attributed to three main drivers: poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles and work-related stress," said Dr George Lee, consultant urologist at Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur hospital.
"In Malaysia, it is not uncommon for people to be sitting at their work stations for hours on end and eating out at odd hours of the night. Couple this with the fact that most Malaysians do not exercise regularly and you have a national health situation that could soon reach crisis levels if left unchecked," said Dr Lee.
"While we do have cause for concern, there is good news," he said. "Lifestyle-related diseases are very much in our control, so there is an opportunity for all of us to turn this situation around. The first step is to know your health status, understand your potential health risks and adopt a lifestyle that will enhance your wellbeing. The earlier you detect a lifestyle disease, the easier it is to manage. In fact, the survival rate for many cancers is as high as 80% if detected early."
AIA Health Services' chief officer, Jamie Yu, said, "Poor choices over nutrition and fitness as well as sedentary habits are not only affecting individuals and their families, but it also has a spillover effect on the larger community. AIA has seen the impact the declining health trend has had on companies' productivity and medical expenses."
Yu said that with medical inflation reported at 12 percent per annum, the rising cost of healthcare was another reason for Malaysians to start taking stock of their health. Data showed a 19 percent and 41 percent increase in the average cost per admission for diabetes and heart disease, respectively, between 2010 and 2014.
"Lifestyle related diseases are impacting families not only physically and emotionally, but also financially," added Yu. "There are many cases of medical bankruptcy due to the inability of families to cope with the cost of medical care, especially when they have to pay out of their own pockets owing to inadequate medical coverage. We are asking Malaysians to take their health seriously so they can live long and happy lives."