MoH exploring innovative means to cut intake of unhealthy food

National 3 minutes, 17 seconds


THE Ministry of Health (MoH) and other government agencies concerned are “exploring fiscal mechanisms that will reduce the consumption of unhealthy food in the country”.

This is part of innovative approaches the government is studying to “truly make an impact on heart health” in the country, the ministry said in a message issued yesterday.

The government cannot do this alone though, Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Zulkarnain Hj Hanafi said in the message.

“We make a call for action for the whole of society” to commit to tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including cardiovascular disease (CVD), he said in a message released in conjunction with World Heart Day.

World Heart Day 2016 is observed globally today. 

The minister said there were 408 deaths from CVDs in 2014, and CVDs continue to remain a leading cause of death in Brunei, including in the last five years.

CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease such as heart attacks, and also cerebrovascular disease including strokes.

Many risk factors associated with CVDs are modifiable and can be controlled with appropriate diet and physical activity, including sedentary lifestyles, obesity, tobacco exposure, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, diabetes and unhealthy diets, he said.

Touching on this year’s World Heart Day theme of “Creating Heart-Healthy Environments”, the health minister said it was especially pertinent to today’s issues.

“Creating enabling environments that support health and wellbeing and making healthy choices the default choice is the key to reducing the risk factors for CVD,” he said.

YB Dato Dr Hj Zulkarnain said “prevention is better than cure” and that 80 per cent of premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by three simple measures.

“We need to eat less and eat wisely, we must do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity five times a week, and we need to stop smoking,” he said.

MoH, together with other partners, in line with “creating heart-healthy environments”, has been addressing the challenges of unhealthy lifestyles through various frameworks including the Brunei Darussalam Multisectoral Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2018.

“In addressing obesity, our healthcare professionals provide direct care for those individuals who are overweight and obese, and also those suffering from the consequences of obesity such as diabetes.

“We give brief interventions, motivational counseling and nutritional advice to our clients; we work together with other stakeholders in developing an enabling environment that supports individuals to make healthy choices for themselves and their families,” he said.

The health minister added that in order to truly make an impact on heart health in Brunei, MoH will explore and support innovative approaches to tackling obesity, which are locally-led.

“Over the last few months, we have been working with partners to focus especially on workplace and employee health, and also on the supermarket environment, making sure that it is conducive to making healthy choices.

These innovative approaches include fiscal mechanisms to reduce consumption of unhealthy food, he said.

However, while MoH is committed to support the national effort to prevent and reduce excess weight, it cannot do this alone, he added.

“More than just a whole of government approach, a whole of nation approach to tackling this issue is imperative.

“Government agencies and non-government entities must consider the consequences of their policies on health, the so-called ‘Health in All Policies’ agenda,” the minister said.

In this regard, the ministry will continue to look to the full range of partners in both the government and private sectors to encourage and support individuals in the sultanate to eat a healthy diet and become more physically active to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

“We urge the public to work with us by taking responsibility for their own lifestyle choices. Health is everyone’s business. Let us work together to build a healthy Brunei Darussalam,” YB Dato Dr Hj Zulkarnain said.

The Brunei Times