Malaysian Government, Industry and other stakeholders are coming together to tackle the rising prevalence of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the country, launching a number of new initiatives to encourage balanced diets and healthy, active lifestyles in 2013.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has repeatedly emphasised the need for Malaysia to take urgent, collaborative action and next year will see both Government and Industry take significant steps to help promote balanced and healthy lifestyles to help prevent this growing trend.

“The time has come for us to focus on preventative measures,” Liow commented in a public forum. “As we can see from the statistics on such diseases, the numbers are going up every year. We cannot wait… we cannot just continue to discuss the issue and not act.”

As part of the broader approach to tackling NCDs, leading food industry players in Malaysia have been working collaboratively with the Ministry of Health to develop responsible advertising to children guidelines. These guidelines aim to shift childrens’ exposure towards food and beverage that support a healthy, balanced lifestyle with signatories committing not to advertise their products to children under 12 years, unless they fulfill company specific nutrition criteria.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has been working closely with the Malaysia Ministry of Health to develop these commitments and presented the concept, alongside Ministry of Health Government officials, to the Minister of Health at the annual MOH Council (MKMPK) meeting earlier in December. During the meeting, the Minister officially endorsed the FMM’s proposal to formalise a “Malaysia Pledge – Responsible Advertising to Children”.

Liow highlighted that the FMM had volunteered to implement these guidelines.

“This is an industry Pledge and they will work with advertising associations to make sure products that do not meet the criteria of nutritional value are not marketed to children aged 12 and below,” he said after chairing the meeting.

FMM Food Group Chairman Mohd Shah Hashim said that the FMM is currently working through the mechanisms for the Pledge and is aiming to implement the commitments in the first quarter of 2013 “in collaboration with the Health Ministry”.

In addition to this collaboration with the industry, the Government is also launching awareness raising initiatives in 2013 to help encourage Malaysians to adopt healthy, balanced lifestyles. Liow highlighted that the Health Ministry is giving special focus to helping people understand more about the impacts of NCDs and the steps they can take to prevent them.

One of these initiatives – the First 1,000 Days Programme – will focus on ensuring that children receive proper nutrition to help them establish good eating habits later in life.

Liow said: “Obesity is getting younger, moving from older Malaysians in the past to adolescence now” and highlighted the importance of teaching people about good nutrition from a young age.

Building on these initiatives, Malaysia will also be launching Medik TV Live Now – a channel that provides information on health – nationwide next year and holding its first Non-Communicable Disease Conference in Kuala Lumpur in March 2013.