KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), especially cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer, cost the Malaysian economy up to RM8.91 billion from productivity losses annually.
In a report released today by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), utilising data from 2017 on the impact of NCDs and their risk factors on Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP), the upward annual loss of RM8.91 billion — equivalent to about 0.65 per cent of Malaysia’s GDP — was estimated from productivity losses due to absenteeism, presenteeism in the workplace, and the premature death of working age population in Malaysia.
The MOH-WHO report also found that besides productivity losses, NCDs placed a serious health burden on countries resulting from disability and loss of healthy life years, called the burden of disease costs. This “intangible” cost is estimated to be around RM100.79 billion yearly, equivalent to 7.35 per cent of Malaysia’s GDP.
“NCDs are often associated with health care costs, but evidence such as this shows how NCDs hamper the social and economic development of our country,” Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a joint statement with WHO Representative in Malaysia Dr Lo Ying-Ru.
Their statement highlighted various modifiable risk factors that contribute to the increased risk of NCDs in Malaysia — unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, and physical inactivity.
It was reported that unhealthy diet contributed to two-thirds (68.9 per cent) of the costs of lost productivity due to premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases, while tobacco use contributed to more than one-third (36.9 per cent) of the productivity losses. Tobacco use also contributed to the highest proportion of the losses from cancer (15 per cent).
Dr Lo stressed that the NCDs are preventable and if not managed, these chronic diseases will significantly affect health and the economy.
“We need a whole-of government and whole-of society approach so we can turn the tide on NCDs and save lives and livelihoods.”
The WHO representative proposed higher investment in the prevention and control of NCDs, suggesting that the government and other stakeholders reduce NCDs by applying cost-effective interventions.
She also said that individuals should also change their behaviour and make a conscious decision to live a healthier life.
“We should all work together to beat NCDs.”
Dr Noor Hisham said Malaysia has shown its political commitment by creating a Cabinet Committee for a Health Promoting Environment as support of the whole-of-government response in tackling NCDs.
“Creating a supportive environment to support a healthy lifestyle for our people is essential in the war against NCDs,” the Health director-general said. “While we are working hard to address NCDs at its roots, clearly much more needs to be done.”
Through associated national strategies and the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for Non-Communicable Disease 2016-2025, the Malaysian government aims to reduce the risk factors for NCDs to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
This global plan adopted by the United Nations calls for the reduction of premature mortality from NCDs by one-third through prevention and control measures.