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Promoting Health and Well-being: Initiatives by Universities in Malaysia

April 29, 2024

Anis

health and well-being

When discussing healthcare issues, we often emphasize the importance of maintaining our personal health, don’t we?

However, did you know that several universities in Malaysia consistently emphasize the significance of personal health? Sometimes, the initiatives undertaken by these institutions also promote the value of sustainability, which benefits both human and environmental well-being.

Despite this, understanding the connections between sustainability and healthcare can be challenging.

This is particularly true when we are not fully aware of the efforts made by higher education institutions in Malaysia to highlight the importance of personal health and environmental conservation.

So why don’t we try to become more aware and start paying attention to these issues? 

What are the factors contributing to the health risks that concern us today?

Understanding the factors contributing to current health risks is essential for effective healthcare management. There are several factors contribute to these risks, such as: 

1. Having “must try this food” mindset

The 'must try this food' mindset is one of the factors causing concern about health risks, stemming from the widespread culture of sharing on social media. 

With the Internet and various social media platforms, we are constantly exposed to tempting videos of food and beverages. 

These platforms tempt us with visually appealing presentations, making it easy to give in to the temptation of trying various trending foods and drinks.

While this may seem harmless at first, the constant exposure to these tempting images can gradually shape our eating habits, leading to unhealthy choices. 

Over time, this can contribute to the development of lifestyle-related health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 

2. Plastic packaging in the F&B industry

health and well-being

The food and beverage (F&B) industry in Malaysia heavily relies on plastic packaging, which unfortunately affects environmental pollution and raises significant health concerns. 

Single-use plastic packaging like food containers, bottles, and bags, is widely used in the F&B sector due to its convenience and affordability. 

However, the improper disposal of plastic packaging results in severe environmental consequences, such as marine plastic debris and microplastic contamination in food and water sources.

Moreover, plastic packaging poses health risks due to the presence of harmful chemicals like phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). These chemicals can leach into food and beverages, potentially causing health effects.

3. Sedentary lifestyle

Have you noticed how lifestyles today differ from those in the past? Compared to earlier times, modern lifestyles involve very little physical activity, leading to what we now call a sedentary lifestyle.

Individuals with a sedentary lifestyle typically spend a lot of time sitting or lying down, whether at work, at home, or during leisure activities. This lack of physical activity significantly contributes to various health risks, including obesity and cardiovascular diseases, making it a major public health concern.

Factors such as desk-bound jobs, prolonged screen time, and reduced physical activity levels contribute to this sedentary lifestyle. 

For instance, university students spend long hours sitting at desks or in front of screens for assignments, leading to a decrease in overall calorie burn and muscle activity.

4. Environmental pollution

well-being and healthy

Environmental pollution, such as air and water pollution, is another factor that can negatively impact a person’s health. Pollution occurs when harmful substances are released into the environment, leading to adverse effects on human health and well-being.

You might think, for example, that air pollution is caused by open burning or vehicle emissions, right? But, air pollution can also result from a seemingly common act like inhaling cigarette smoke. 

This is known as secondhand smoke exposure. Secondhand smoke (also referred to as passive smoking) occurs when individuals are exposed to tobacco smoke in various settings, such as public gatherings.

Did you know that simply inhaling the odor of tobacco smoke can also affect your health? Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, and lung cancer, particularly in nonsmokers and children. 

5. Poor dietary

Poor dietary choices significantly impact the health risks faced by today’s community. One of the reasons for these poor dietary habits is the busy work schedules people have.

For instance, working adults returning home late at night, feeling hungry, often choose convenient, ready-to-eat meals, don't they?

While these meals are convenient, they often lack healthy nutritional content. They tend to be high in unhealthy nutrients such as excessive salt or sugar and may lack freshness.

Although some are aware of this, many choose to overlook the importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced diet due to their fast-paced lifestyles.

Why is maintaining one’s health important? 

Considering the factors that contribute to the deterioration of one's health, it's no wonder that health risks receive more attention.

Therefore, young individuals like university students should prioritize their health while they are still young. It's essential to reduce unhealthy eating habits and start living a healthier life.

Here are some reasons why prioritizing your health is important: 

1. Reduce risks of chronic diseases

As a university student, you often lead a sedentary lifestyle due to the long hours spent studying and sitting in lectures. This lack of physical activity can have detrimental effects on your health and well-being.

So, you must engage in regular physical activity, such as brisk walking and participating in outdoor sports or extracurricular activities

Exercise not only improves mood and increases energy levels but also reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

2. Maintain good academic performance

Maintaining good academic performance is significantly influenced by both physical and mental health. 

This is because you spend long hours completing assignments and revising for exams or quizzes, which can leave you feeling physically and mentally exhausted.

It's important to remember that academic success isn't just about assignment grades and exam results. Building a good relationship with your lecturers is also essential. However, how can you engage with your lecturers effectively if you appear exhausted?

Pushing yourself too hard academically can lead to your body "shutting down," indicating that you have exceeded your limits. When this happens, it can lead to more serious health problems.

3. Long-term well-being

Developing healthy habits during your university years can have long-lasting effects on your overall well-being. When you prioritize your health as a university student, you're not just investing in your present well-being but also in your future.

It's important to know that the habits formed during college tend to stick with individuals throughout their lives. This means that university students who prioritize their health are more likely to carry these habits into adulthood.

By adopting a healthy lifestyle now, you are setting yourself up for a healthier and more fulfilling life in the future.

How do universities in Malaysia address health risks within the community?

In addition to individual efforts to maintain health, universities in Malaysia also play an important role in raising awareness about health risks.

Therefore, several higher education institutions in Malaysia promote healthy lifestyles among students, which can subsequently have a positive impact on the wider community.

1. Collaborate with other universities 

well-being and healthy

Due to the rapidly evolving healthcare sector and the growing awareness of health risks, Sunway University and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) have partnered to launch the Sunway University Medical Doctor program. This collaboration aims to revolutionize medical education in Malaysia.

By combining Sunway University's innovation with UKM's expertise, the program focuses on research and technology. Its goal is to produce medical professionals proficient in clinical care and equipped to address health challenges comprehensively.

Such university collaborations play a crucial role in improving clinical care in Malaysia by enhancing medical education, research, and healthcare services for the benefit of students and the wider community.

2. Organize awareness campaigns

Organizing awareness campaigns has become a standard practice at every university in Malaysia. Among the common campaigns is the focus on mental health within the university community.

In addition to mental health awareness, other universities like Monash University Malaysia, collaborate with the Malaysian Pharmacy Students’ Association (MyPSA) to organize public health campaigns on antimicrobial resistance.

The main objective of this awareness campaign is to increase awareness about the importance of protecting antibiotics in the body. Additionally, this campaign also provides health screening services to both staff and students.

With efforts like these, students, staff, and also the wider public community will begin to realize the importance of healthcare and become more cautious before taking antibiotics.

3. Arrange community engagement programs 

Community engagement programs are a vital part of the initiatives undertaken by universities in Malaysia to address health issues within the community. These programs aim to extend beyond the university campus and have a positive impact on the surrounding communities.

For example, the International Medical School (IMS), a member of the Management and Science University (MSU) Medical and Health Sciences Cluster, organized the "Jom Sihat" program. This program provided health education to the selected Shah Alam Section 16 community.

The program not only benefited the community members who attended but also offered early preparation for MBBS students before entering the workforce.

4. Integrate sustainability and healthy lifestyle

The integration of sustainability and healthy lifestyles within university campuses is becoming increasingly important in Malaysia.

Universities, such as Taylor's University, recognize the correlation between sustainable practices and promoting healthy living among their students and staff.

One aspect of this integration involves promoting sustainable practices within the university campus. This includes initiatives such as reducing energy consumption, promoting waste reduction and recycling, and adopting eco-friendly transportation options. 

By implementing these practices, Taylor's University not only reduces its environmental impact but also creates a healthier and more sustainable campus environment.

Moreover, there is a clear correlation between sustainability and healthy lifestyles. Sustainable practices such as eating locally sourced, organic foods and using eco-friendly products not only benefit the environment but also promote better health among individuals.

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