Protect ‘Our Planet, Our Health’ — Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming

If we protect our planet, we will be able to protect our health. Let us start taking action and inspire others.

In conjunction with World Health Day on April, 7, 2022, we must remember to protect “Our Planet, Our Health”, which is also the theme for this year. 

What can we do to protect our planet and our health? The World Health Organization (WHO) has a five-point plan which encourages us to take action and to inspire others: 

  • Walk or pedal to work at least one day a week. Choose public transport.  
  • Change to a renewable energy provider; turn off the light when not in the room.
  • Buy fresh groceries from local producers and avoid highly processed foods and beverages. 
  • Tobacco is a killer and a polluter. Stop consuming tobacco. 
  • Buy less plastic; use recyclable grocery bags

In order for the above to be acted upon by society, we need all stakeholders to take appropriate action. 

We might be living too far away from where we work, which will make it impossible to walk to work. We might also be unable to walk or cycle to work, as footpaths or bicycle lanes may not be available.

Therefore, municipal councils should build new bicycle lanes and footpaths. Walking or cycling to work is beneficial for our health, as this increases the frequency of our physical movements, which will reduce or eliminate obesity, as well as prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and certain types of cancers. 

Public transport should also be made more frequent, convenient, and affordable in order to promote frequent usage.

Changing to renewable energy may be a challenge for us, as not many households are equipped with solar panels to generate electricity. 

However, since Malaysia is blessed with plenty of sunshine, there should be more research and development into this area. The government should provide tax exemptions for manufacturers who use solar energy. 

The habit of turning off lights and fans when no one is using the room should be inculcated from childhood.

Buying fresh groceries such as fruits and vegetables from local producers will support our farmers, but also reduce the carbon footprint generated in the transport of these products from other countries.

Highly processed foods and beverages increase carbon footprints involved in production, which is detrimental to the environment.  In addition, highly processed foods and beverages are also found to increase the risks of obesity and NCDs.  

A healthy eating environment should be provided by municipal councils. This can be achieved by restricting the number of food outlets selling highly processed foods and beverages. 

Higher taxes should also be imposed on these foods and beverages. On the other hand, lower taxes should be imposed on healthy foods and beverages.  

We should reduce food wastage, and not be influenced by deals from outlets and delivery platforms to purchase more food with more discounts. If we purchase and consume more food, we might gain weight and be at higher risk of acquiring NCDs.   

According to data from landfill operator SWCorp Malaysia, there are 17,000 tonnes of food waste recorded on a daily basis, of which 24 per cent is still edible. 

This food waste can easily feed 2.9 million people for three meals a day. Every piece of food that gets thrown away contributes towards greenhouse gas emission.

By quitting smoking, lung cancer can be prevented, and air pollution reduced. The government should create smoke-free environments and impose higher taxes on tobacco.

Using fewer plastic wrapping and opting for recyclable bags will help the environment, since traditional plastic items such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) cannot readily decompose.

Plastic is bad for the environment, because they release toxins and greenhouse gases. If plastic items reach the ocean, they may be broken down into smaller pieces, which can be mistaken for food by marine life.

If we protect our planet, we will be able to protect our health. Let us start taking action and inspire others. Happy World Health Day.

Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming is from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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