Time To Provide Incentives For Staying Healthy
The Health Ministry is looking towards promoting healthy living by rewarding Malaysians who stay hale and fit.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said it was about time for an incentive-based system to encourage Malaysians to adopt healthy lifestyles.
“It could be something like the car insurance policy where one gets NCB (no-claims bonus),” he said.
For a start, he suggested that employers reward employees who did not take sick leave.
“They could be given a bonus. Give them such incentives to live healthily. It is all about using a positive approach,” he said.
Liow said giving rewards was better than the “punishment” approach that had been suggested to him, under which those whose waistlines exceed 74cm to 76.2cm (29 inches to 30 inches) would be subject to certain kinds of action.
In Japan and South Korea, the promotion of a healthy lifestyle is “enforced” by employers who shun the overweight in favour of those who look healthy and fit.
In the United States, some insurance companies and Medicare programmes pay doctors for achieving specific health goals with their patients.
Liow said Malaysians were aware of the need to lead healthy lifestyles but needed to translate it into action, adding that the ministry was now looking at how such incentives could be given to its own staff.
He said statistics for non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Malaysia had not improved as reflected in the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey 2011.
Liow said the ministry was considering various ways to reduce the risks of NCDs, including addressing causes rather than consequences and cutting risk factor exposures such as tobacco, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.
The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) lauded the new approach.
MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said that although the reward system was already adopted by some employers, the ministry’s promotion would encourage more bosses to follow suit.
“When attendance incentives have been introduced, employers are sometimes accused of trying to encourage employees to come to work even when they are sick. But the incentives are aimed at reducing the abuse of sick leave,” he said.
He said that before policies on medical leave were implemented, companies lost an average of more than 4% of man-days a year.
“However, with implementation, the percentage of man-days lost has been less than 0.1%,” he said.
(A man-day is an industrial unit of production equal to the work one person does in a day)
Shamsuddin hoped that more employers would implement such rules because they would lead to a win-win situation.
“The employees will be reward- ed for their attendance and employers can recover lost man-days.
“This will also raise awareness among employees to cultivate healthy lifestyles,” he added.