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Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Deadly Rabies in Dogs Alert !



Quarantine declared in ‘rabies area’


The war against rabies is on with the Matang sub-district declaring it a “rabies infected area” effective yesterday, following the death of a rabid dog which bit two girls in Kuala Sepetang.

Calling it an immediate measure to curb the spread of rabies, Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir signed the declaration, which bars people from bringing dogs out of the zone.

If they want to do so, they will need written permission from the state Veterinary Services Depart­ment director.

Announcing the decision to the press yesterday, Dr Zambry said the area would be monitored by the Perak Veterinary Department.

A special task force headed by Perak Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon was also formed.

“Those with pet dogs will have to watch them closely and keep them in enclosed areas.

“The Veterinary Department has hired qualified personnel to deal with rabid dogs. Dogs found having symptoms of rabies will be culled,” Dr Zambry said.

The authorities had begun vaccinating all pets within a 1km radius of Kuala Sepetang, about 70km from here, on Sunday.

Veterinary Services director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said the two-year-old rabid dog bit its owner’s 11-year-old daughter and 12-year-old niece at a house in Tepi Sungai at about 7pm on July 4.

The dog is believed to have been bitten by another dog brought into the country on a boat by foreigners.

Dr Zambry said that although no other cases had been reported, the quarantine was put in place as a precaution.

“This restriction only involves animals. Humans can move freely in and out of the area,” he added.

At a separate press conference in Kuala Sepetang, assemblyman Chua Yee Ling said the focus would be on monitoring the movement of dogs, vaccinating pet dogs and taking samples from strays.

Meanwhile, the mother of one of the two girls bitten by the pet dog was unhappy that she was not told that the dead dog had tested positive for rabies.

The 40-year-old hawker, who only wanted to be known as Ooi, said she found out about it from friends who came to her house.

She said the two girls had recovered and returned to school.

“I hope the public will respect my privacy and let me focus on looking after the girls,” she said.

She said both girls would receive four more vaccine jabs at Taiping Hospital in the next two weeks.

Residents in the fishing village seemed calm, although many remained jumpy at the sight of stray dogs.

Veterinary Services Department officers were spotted going door to door to inform the villagers about rabies and enquire about pet dogs.

Sources: The Star  by T. Avineshwaran Amanda Yeap


Related Links:

Infectious diseases making comeback - Nation | The Star Online

Five-year-old girl succumbs to rabies in Sarawak

19 strays culled in location of rabid dog attack

Penang on high alert, to set up a ‘buffer zone’

Perak declares Matang sub-district a rabies infection area

Fisherman: At least 60 strays died mysteriously  

Plan to quarantine several areas in Sarawak to contain rabies
 
Rabies in Dogs: Vaccination, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


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Friday, July 14, 2017

Dengue app bad for aedes, can get updates, report dengue concerns

The ‘Predict and Beat Dengue’ app is now available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Predict and Beat Dengue - Android Apps on Google Play

https://youtu.be/jYL-EBSrV_8

App for updates on dengue


PENANGITES can now download a mobile application (app) which allows its users to be part of an effort to combat dengue in the state.

Known as the ‘Predict and Beat Dengue’ app, it will alert users when they enter a dengue hotspot.

The users can also report dengue-related concerns in their areas and get the latest updates on dengue cases as among its other features.

State Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said the app is now available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

He said the app could help to predict a possible dengue outbreak in an area within the next 30 days.

“From there, we can carry out prevention by removing all possible Aedes breeding grounds.

“It quickens the process of detection and identifies places that require dengue preventative measures such as fogging, larvae-ciding and gotong-royong,” he said during a briefing session at Komtar yesterday.

Dr Afif said the state spent RM200,000 on a pilot study for the project which was carried out between May 1 and July 1 by the app creator, a US-based company known as Aime Inc.

“I’m proud that Penang is taking this proactive approach. We are working hand-in-hand with the Health Ministry and they are very supportive of this idea.

“We hope that it can also be carried out nationwide,” he said.

Aime president Rainier Mallol explained the workings of the app and its many features during the presentation.

Also present were Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey, Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T. Jayabalan and Sungai Pinang assemblyman Lim Siew Khim.

Source: The Star/ANN

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

New ways to beat superbugs, a Malaysian doctorate student discovered?


A Malaysian doctorate student is causing a buzz in the medical research field.

 Lam Shu Jie (pic), 25, and her team of researchers may have found a solution to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria commonly known as “superbugs”.

The team from Melbourne School of Engineering published a paper on Monday on a new treatment method.

Shu Lam A 25 year-old Melbourne Uni student has made a discovery that could be a game-changer for modern medicine and avert a serious health crisis.

The method uses star-shaped structures called structurally nano-engineered anti-microbial peptide polymers (SNAPPs).

SNAPPs are found to be highly effective in killing Gram-negative bacteria – a class of bacteria which is antibiotic resistant – without hurting healthy cells, according to the team’s article in Nature Microbiology.

Unlike antibiotics which attempt to kill the bugs chemically, the star-shaped protein molecules defeat them by “ripping apart their cell walls”.

She also found that it was important to have outside interest due to the research work's long hours and possibility of failure..

"I've just watched the Korean movie called 'Train to Busan'. I also like trying new cuisines and exploring cafes here because the food culture's very strong," she laughed..

She lamented that the initial experiments were daunting, which left her in fear..

"My experiments kept failing, but later I learned what went wrong. I like the investigating part of research. It's beyond being in the labs or reading books; it's also about speaking with other experts," she said..

The second child of three siblings still has strong ties with home..

"I try to come back for the Chinese New Year because I miss my family," she said while lamenting the loss of her father last year..

Despite her supervisor Prof. Greg Qiao reportedly saying that her research is still at its early stage, Lam has plans to continue her research in the field, while in the long-term, she expressed hope to establish a research group with experts upon returning home and also lecture..

She will complete her PhD in two months time..

The scientific breakthrough was picked up by many news portals including Science Daily, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the South China Morning Post.

Lam told South China Morning Post that she spent the past three and a half years researching polymers and how they can be used to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The Batu Pahat lass, who is to submit her PhD thesis in two months, admitted that she hoped to continue to work in research, rather than opt for medical training like her father who is a paediatrician.

“I think my career will be mainly focused on research in the medical field,” said Lam.

Her supervisor Prof Greg Qiao, who is also one of the 10 co-authors of the scientific journal, said the research was still in its early stages.

He told South China Morning Post that more work was needed to verify the best formula and structure, as well as determine dosage and test for toxicity, before the substance could be deemed safe for human use.

“Even with all the money in the world, it would take at least five years to get to the first human-test stage because many resources and much work are needed before commercialisation,” he said.

Superbugs stem from misuse or overuse of antibiotics, according to the World Health Organisation.

It lists anti-microbial resistance as a global concern that threatens our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability and death. The Star/Asia News Network.

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“I think my career will be mainly focused on research in the medical field,” said Lam, who has already begun pursuing her passion in polymer research during her four-year undergraduate degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering.

“As an undergraduate, she would come to our group for summer work when she had time,” Qiao recalled of Lam.


These days when Lam finds the rare downtime between researching polymers, she likes to watch TV and explore the city. “Being in Melbourne, I have developed an interest in food and really like exploring new cafes and brunch places, so I spend a lot of time trying new food and walking around when I’m not working,” Lam said.

Lam moved to Australia for her foundation studies after finishing primary and secondary school in Malaysia, and is likely stay on in Australia after graduating at the end of the year.

“My main preference would be to continue to stay in research, but I am also looking at career fields outside of polymer research,” she said. “This research is going in different directions,” said Qiao. “One is killing the bug, the other is treating cancer.”

Her group is also examining the use of polymers as a drug carrier for cancer patients as well as the treatment of other diseases.

A key project at the moment is the synthetic transplant of cornea in the eye, which involves the use of polymers grown from the patient’s own cells in the lab to replace the damaged cornea.

The operation has already been tested multiple times successfully on sheep, and Qiao hopes to begin the first human trials in Melbourne within two years, working with the Melbourne Eye and Ear Hospital.


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Friday, September 2, 2016

The Zika virus spreading to Malaysia and Singapore


Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys by researchers monitoring yellow fever. The virus got its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda where it was first discovered. It is classified as a flavivirus, which puts it in the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis viruses and dengue. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, Brazil saw 20 times more microcephaly cases in 2015 than usual, following the outbreak of Zika in the country that year.


https://youtu.be/H5IbCDebdBM

The Zika virus, explained 
 

https://youtu.be/OILBAbva6QA

First Zika patient getting better



Video: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/09/02/first-zika-patient-getting-better-doc-womans-last-blood-test-turned-out-negative-but-we-will-retest/

The first Zika patient in the country is recuperating well at the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

The hospital’s infectious disease head Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said the symptoms that the 58-year-old woman suffered from, including rashes, had also cleared up.

“We will be doing a blood test on her today and if it turns out to be negative, we can let her go home in a few days’ time,” he said yesterday.

He said her mild rashes cleared up in two or three days and the last blood test was negative but the hospital decided to keep her for a little longer just to ensure there would be no transmission to other people.

The blood test today was to reconfirm that she was free of Zika, he said.

The woman and her husband had visited their daughter in Singapore on Aug 19 and returned on Aug 21.

A week later, the woman developed rashes and fever, and sought medical attention at a private clinic in Klang.

She was referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and on Aug 31, her urine sample tested positive for the Zika virus.

Her daughter, who works and lives in Paya Lebar, Singapore, has also been infected.

The woman’s husband and other family members who lived in the same house in Ambang Botanic have yet to show any symptoms of the infection.

Dr Lee said the most common symptoms of Zika were fever, body aches, rashes and red eyes which would normally clear up within a few days.

He said that if a woman was infected by Zika, the vaginal fluids might contain the virus for up to two months after she had recovered.

“So, if she has sex with a man within the two months, the man can be infected with Zika.

“The virus can also stay in a man’s semen for up to six months after he has recovered.”

Infected pregnant women face the risk of delivering a child with microcephaly, while others might suffer from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition.

According to the American National Institute of Neurological Disorder’s fact sheet, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralysed.

Dr Lee recommended that pregnant women who have travelled to affected countries like Brazil and Singapore go for check-ups at nearby hospitals.

By Loh foon fong, wani muthiah, joseph kaos, tho xin yi, shazni ong, christopher tan, neville spykerman, dina murad, victoria brown, mohd farhaan shah, norbaiti phaharoradzi, nabila ahmad, rebecca rajaendram, edward rajendra The Star/ANN

Take precautions when in Singapore 

 

 
Personal measure: Bus passenger Naizatul Takiah Ali, 21, spraying mosquito repellent on herself at the Larkin bus terminal in Johor Baru.

It is unrealistic to stop Malaysians from travelling to Singapore, but people must take precautions against mosquito bites, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

There are about 200,000 Malaysians working in Singapore, with some travelling to and fro on a daily basis, so it would be difficult to block people from going to the republic, he said.

“We have to be realistic. The more practical way to prevent the spread of the Zika virus is to take precautions against mosquito bites.

“Apply an adequate amount of mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid being bitten.

“If you can avoid visiting Singapore, then avoid.

“But this is only voluntary and not an instruction from Malaysia. Malaysians visiting the republic should take preventive measures against mosquito bites,” he said at a press conference here yesterday.

He said Malaysians who have visited Singapore and have symptoms of the virus such as fever and rashes should seek immediate attention.

Dr Subramaniam also said vehicles coming into Malaysia from Singapore, especially buses, would be sprayed with insecticide as an additional measure.

“We know this does not prevent the spread of the virus 100%, but is an additional precautionary measure on top of other methods that we have carried out throughout the country,” he added.

The minister also said pregnant women or those planning to have a child should seek advice from their doctors, as there has been a reported link between the Zika virus with microcephaly, which causes deformity in babies.

Those who are infected should abstain from having sex, or use protection, as the virus can be spread through sexual activities.

“The virus can stay in an infected man’s body for six months and for two months inside a woman’s body,” he said.

Singapore battling outbreak of Zika virus



https://youtu.be/WR4Fh3GanhI

Foreigners account for half of Singapore cases


SINGAPORE: Half of the Zika cases in Singapore are foreigners who live or work here, and six of them are Malaysians.

According to a report in TODAYonline.com which quoted the Singapore Ministry of Health, the news portal said that out of 115 cases, 57 are foreigners.

The largest group is 23 people from China, followed by 15 from India and 10 from Bangladesh.

Six cases are Malaysians, and one case each from Indonesia, Myanmar and Taiwan.

“All had mild illnesses. Most have recovered while the rest are recovering well,” a ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.

On Saturday, it was reported that a Malaysian woman is believed to be the first patient infected by locally-transmitted Zika virus in Singapore.

As the 47-year-old had not travelled to Zika-affected areas recently, she was likely to have been infected in the republic. She resides at Block 102, Aljunied Crescent and works in Singapore. — Bernama

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Supersized and overweight civil servants

The public waiting their turn for services at a government department. - Filepic

When those two words describe a nation's public sector, it means it's truly a burden on taxpayers.

POOR civil servants! If you watched Disney’s animated film Zootopia, you would have caught the hilarious scene where the heroes, a rabbit and a fox, rushed to the Department of Motor Vehicles to check out a licence plate, only to get very, very slow service from the sloths manning the counter.

It would appear this stereotyping of civil servants’ work ethic is universal, which is why the parody tickled audiences everywhere.

Now Malaysians have another reason to make fun of their civil servants: they’re too fat. At least the ones in Putrajaya are, according to the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) which showed it has the highest rate of overweight and obese citizens.

It’s an established fact that Putrajaya is populated overwhelmingly by government employees, which means those living and serving in the very heart of the nation’s administrative capital are rather unhealthy.

That’s a bummer because, design-wise, Putrajaya got it right. It was a winner in the 75,001­ to 150,000-population category for the Whole City Award under the International Awards for Liveable Communities 2012.

In the paper submitted for the awards, Putrajaya boasted of having “lush greeneries surrounding buildings, infrastructure, (12) parks and gardens.” What’s more, the same paper took into account the need to keep Putra­jaya folks fit and healthy.

It noted that 28% of the residents had a normal BMI (Body Mass Index), 36.3% were overweight, 27.4% obese and 8.3% were even underweight. That was in 2011.

Just four years later, 37% of Putrajayans are said to be overweight and their obesity rate is 43%, according to the NHMS findings.

These are alarming jumps and more so when there were efforts like the Healthy Parks, Healthy People programme to get the residents to exercise to stave off lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes. Among the activities was the Putrajaya Inter-Park Ride monthly cycling event.

So what gives? Why are Putrajayans and Malaysians on the whole so fat? We hold the title of Fatties of South-East Asia; some reports say the whole of Asia.

Some people may, in a perverse way, hail having an overly well-fed population as a sign of a nation’s prosperity. After all, the fattest people in the world are the Americans.

A How’s Life? 2015 Report by the Organisation for Economic Coopera­tion and Development ranked the United States as the nation with the most obese population. It also had the fattest children and the unhealthiest teenagers by a wide margin.

The findings are said to be a blow to the Obama administration and First Lady Michelle Obama because they have been championing this cause for years, including reducing sugar and salt from school lunches.

So if both the US and Malaysian Governments couldn’t stem the fat tide in their respective countries, who can? I would say it’s still the government and we the people.

What we have is a terribly bloated public sector. The Star, quoting Prime Minister’s Office statistics, pointed out that at 1.4 million employees, it’s the largest civil service in South-East Asia.

Supersized and overweight. That’s a double whammy and the kind of Malaysian Book of Records we don’t need. So for a start, how about really downsizing the civil service? After all, why do we need so many civil servants to serve a population that’s way smaller than those in neighbouring countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand?

Next, I support calls to make it mandatory for civil servants to lose the fat and stay healthy. This is especially so for those who have yet to develop serious illnesses like diabetes. If need be, withhold promotions and salary increases if they don’t meet this KPI.

The reason why I am pushing for this is because civil servants get free medical services in government hospitals and clinics, even after retirement.

That’s a longstanding benefit which I don’t object to, since my retired police officer father is a beneficiary. But with a large, unhealthy government workforce, you can imagine the humongous medical bill we taxpayers are burdened with.

If nothing is done, it will become a bigger burden because, as doctors have warned, 20 years from now, those overweight and obese citizens will be suffering from all sorts of illnesses from stroke, heart disease and kidney failure to diabetes.

All that “will increase the health budget to an unsustainable level,” Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ashok Zachariah Philip told The Star.

Thanks to my role as the primary caregiver to my elderly parents who suffer from various illnesses, I know how scarily expensive medical care can be for those without access to free treatments.

As a private sector employee, I am grateful to be working for a company that gives me good medical coverage. But I have also bought my own health insurance to prepare for the day when I retire and lose my safety net. In the meantime, I work at staying healthy and medication-free.

As I said, I do not begrudge the medical benefit for government servants. What I do begrudge are those who take it for granted, instead of taking responsibility for their own well-being.

If the Government can work on getting its workforce in shape, non-public sector citizens too can do their part by eating less and more healthily and getting off our butts.

Admittedly, it’s hard now to go out for a run or even a stroll because of the current heat wave and haze. But we can try taking the stairs instead of the lift, drink more water than teh tarik and yes, eat less of our beloved nasi lemak.

Proud as we are that Time magazine ranked it as the ninth healthiest breakfast in the world, we know better. A dish that tastes that good cannot be healthy!

I leave this thought with you: The OEDC report, which measures the personal and economic health of nations, found that the United States indeed topped the chart in personal wealth and even the number of rooms in American homes.

So yes, they have the wealth but where’s the health?


By June H.L. Wong
So Aunty, So What?

Aunty likes this quote by humourist Jarod Kintz: Obesity isn’t as cool as it used to be, back in the earlier centuries. Before it was a reflection on your gross income. Now it’s just gross. Feedback to aunty@thestar.com.my

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Putrajaya the obese-city! Address obesity urgently

Two men cycling in front of the Palace of justice in Putrajaya

Malaysia has the highest percentage of overweight people in South-East Asia and the bulk of them are in Putrajaya. A survey has found that two out of five Malaysian civil servants are obese. The news is not good for the country’s health.

KUALA LUMPUR: It has been long known that Malaysia is the fattest country in South-East Asia. Now, it has been proven that the administrative capital of Putrajaya has the highest rate of overweight and obese people in the country.

Findings from the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) placed Putrajaya as the city with the highest percentage of overweight, obese and abdominally obese people in the country.

The study also suggests that the administrative capital’s population has a 37% chance of being overweight, while the obesity rate stood at 43%.

Even more startling, the NHMS said government and semi-government employees took the cake as those struggling most with obesity, with a 40.3% rate.

This could mean two out of every five of Malaysia’s civil servants may be obese.

Malaysia’s civil service has 1.4 million employees, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, and is the largest civil service in South-East Asia.

Other obesity demographics pointed out in the survey were Indians (43.5%), married adults (33.8%) and those who only studied up to secondary school (32.1%).


The findings put the Government in a rather red-faced situation, as it works on reversing the climbing number of obese and overweight Malaysians.

“As the number of people with obesity increases, the nation now is facing an upward surge of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” the survey concluded, describing the Malaysian obesity epidemic as alarming.

Although a review of public health policy was not necessary now, it opined, the Government was asked to provide more supportive environments for Malaysians to lead healthier lifestyles.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Ashok Zachariah Phillip agreed, saying that the life of a typical government servant did not afford them much time or money to stay healthy.

“If you look at the strata, it’s usually the lower grade workers who are overweight because it takes money to keep fit. Government workers go to work at 7am, come back at 7pm and have no time between work and family to even think of exercising,” he said.

It doesn’t help either that basic essentials like white rice, sugar and oil are staple Malaysian diets and are unhealthy, he said.

“For us doctors, this could be a real headache 20 years down the road. We are going to have a growing population with stroke and heart disease, and kidney failures that will increase the health budget at an unsustainable level,” he added.

The Government needs to look into setting up more gyms in agencies and dish out incentives for employees to fight the bulge.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the figures were worrying.

“I don’t think the people are in the best state of health,” he said.

He said general sedentary work has a correlation to obesity, a trend which government agencies, namely the police, were trying to counter.

“The police recognised this recently and have taken some effort to make sure they have lean policemen. They will try to take action to meet this target,” Dr Subramaniam said yesterday.

Malacca and Perlis are the states with second and third highest obesity rates. Sabah and the Federal Territory of Labuan were the slimmest states.

By Micholas Cheng The Star

Address obesity urgently




AMID the current heat wave, not only are we blue over the greens (The Star, April 4) with highland vegetables wilting and Ipoh’s famous pomelos shrinking in size, schoolchildren are also getting more obese with the sound advice from the authorities to stay indoors.

Presumably, many children will go in droves to air-conditioned malls and fast food restaurants for meals, which naturally will add to the problem of obesity.

Doctors say obesity is defined as the condition of being very overweight and having a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher. The BMI is a measure of the weight relative to the height.

Evidently, obesity is manifested in the abdominal fat around the waist of children and adults as well.

But we should not get unduly worried with the adults because they are mature and knowledgeable enough to take responsibility for their health.

However, the innocent children’s health is undeniably our responsibility. Like it or not, we are accountable and answerable for the obesity problem in their adult life.

Today we can see the startling increase in the number of obese children across the country. Yet many parents unfortunately are seemingly too busy to check their children’s diet, let alone their daily exercise like the recommended walk of up to 10,000 steps a day.

Perhaps schools should voluntarily take up the task of creating awareness about the high risks and health hazards of obesity.

One practical way is to do routine short workouts: get students to burn calories by doing some exercises in the school assembly or in class every day – even some stretching exercises will suffice.

Certainly, this will increase their metabolic rate, thus strengthening their mental ability to learn; reducing levels of stress and depression; and suppressing the appetite.

When the heat wave is over, I would say it is the ethical and moral responsibility of the school authorities to bring back the Physical Standard Tests for all students like the good old days and mobilise all the staff to run selected athletic events such as the 100m, 200m, long jump, high jump and shot putt. Set certain standards for the events.

It would be much better if the Education Ministry’s Sports Department sets the national standards for all these events, which was done in the 60s till the 80s by using the co-curriculum 001 and 002 cards.

Next, it is also incumbent upon the Education Ministry to make it mandatory for school canteens to display the calorie counts for all the food so that the children will learn how to make healthy food choices and to calculate the total calorie intake they require for a day (about 1,600 and 2,500 calories per day depending on their age, gender and activity level).Eventually, they will “graduate” to become smart healthy consumers.

Let’s take these critical measures seriously to save our children from potential health risks like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and also some cancers.

This will invariably reduce the national health bill as well.

It was reported in “Putrajaya tops obese list” (see above) that we already have the highest percentage of overweight people in South-East Asia, and two out of five civil servants are obese.

Hence, invariably, the Government has to increase the health budget to cater for our increasingly ailing population if the obesity problem is not urgently addressed.

THOMAS KOK Ipoh

Related story: Healthy when young, healthy when old



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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Penang City Council barking up wrong tree ?

Save the trees: Mohamed Idris hugging a tree as other CAP members and protesters stage a peaceful demonstration in Jalan Masjid Negeri.

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang Island City councillor has joined hands with the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and other non-governmental organisations in protesting the council’s decision to transplant 18 trees for its road widening project along Jalan Masjid Negeri here.

Councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui said the island’s road widening projects to ease traffic jams were a futile effort as they were not for the long term.

“We have enough evidence to show that road widening is not a permanent solution for heavy traffic.

“Instead, it will only increase the number of vehicles on the road,” he said when met during a peaceful demonstration by CAP in Jalan Masjid Negeri yesterday.

Dr Mah said besides transplanting trees, the council and state government should think of other ways such as carpooling to ease traffic.

“The public has to deal with heavy traffic during peak hours and public holidays.”

Earlier, CAP members held a demonstration to show their objection to the 1.8km road widening project along Jalan Masjid Negeri.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris hugged a tree to show his disapproval.

“People and trees are being relocated and environment is being destroyed in the name of development.

“I am extremely upset that consideration is given to vehicles at the expense of trees,” he told the reporters.

Mohamed Idris said this was unacceptable and he described the decision as pure madness.

“The fast pace development in the state is destroying Penang’s natural charm.

“With the greenery being replaced by concrete, Penang will soon become an unliveable place,” he said.

He added that the people should come together to oppose this action as there was a dire need to preserve the island’s tree-lined roads.

It was reported on Feb 6 that 18 trees would be affected along the Jalan Scotland-bound stretch, starting from Lorong Batu Lanchang-Jalan Masjid Negeri junction to the Jalan Air Itam-Jalan Masjid Negeri junction in its 1.8km road widening project along Jalan Masjid Negeri.

There are 33 trees lining the left side of the road where the current two-lane roadway will be increased to three lanes to cope with the heavy traffic flow, but the council managed to reduce the amount of trees affected to 18.

The project is scheduled for completion in May next year.

-  Logeiswary Thevadassa and Reena Hod The Star/Asia News Network


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Friday, January 22, 2016

Healing through hiking mountains

The arduous Pacific Crest Trails offered the author of The Girl In The Woods the chance to take back control of her life after being raped.

The first time I heard of the Pacific Crest Trail was at the recent George Town Literary Festival, when a friend expressed interest in hiking it. Stretching across mountains running along the western coast of the United States, it is a challenging trail that should be attempted by only the hardiest of hikers.

My own experience with hiking is limited to beginner trails in national parks and forest reserves. Hiking is fun, but I know well enough of its dangers – years ago, another friend of mine had gone hiking and disappeared. The friend at the festival who wanted to hike the Pacific Crest is a man in his 30s. In Girl In The Woods, the hiker, who goes by the name “Wild Child”, is a young woman of 19 and a survivor of rape.

Wild Child grew up as Deborah “Debby” Parker, a sheltered child who lived under the wing of her protective mother and influential, high-achieving brother. On the second night of her stay at college, she was raped.

The emotional and psychological effects of the rape, compounded with the lack of empathy from her college and her family, became the catalyst for her decision to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail.

For Wild Child, the hike was both a method of escaping a society that made her feel vulnerable and of confronting danger and, through that, regaining her sense of control and trust.

Author: Aspen Matis Publisher : William Morrow/HarperCollins, non-fictionNature and the wilderness is often portrayed as a place of peace and isolation, but any illusion that the wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail is isolated and peaceful is proven false in Wild Child’s experiences along the trail. The Pacific Crest Trail hiking line is a male-dominated environment, peopled with strange men and women, and offers very little protection from physical or verbal violence stemming from racism, misogyny, or sheer sadism.

Following Wild Child’s journey along the trail brings us to very close intimacy with her personality, her decisions, and her pain. Although survivor accounts and articles on the way rape affects psychology exist in abundance, Girl In The Woods vividly shows how rape shatters one’s sense of safety, trust, and control over one’s body and environment; more importantly, the book allows readers to witness the challenges of regaining that lost sense of security and control.

As we follow her journey, we are also made to confront rape culture – both when it is perpetrated by the people around Wild Child and when we are tempted to criticise her lack of self-preservation. Wild Child exposes herself (at times literally) to strangers and dangers, and readers may find themselves finding fault and blaming her for “tempting rape”. We are made to confront and encouraged to unshackle from our own preconceived, perhaps subconscious, perpetuation of victim blaming and rape culture.

The topic of rape may frighten some readers away from the book, but the harsh desert beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail and Wild Child’s own personal resilience tames its violence, so the experience of reading the book is not unpleasant.

Girl In The Woods is a powerful testament of nature’s healing qualities and an intimate examination of surviving rape.

It is an elegant narrative of loss of innocence, regaining of strength, and finding love and self-acceptance.

It is not merely an account of a survivor but an adventure book, a record of a coming-of-age, and a story of personal growth as the protagonist transforms from the insecure Debby Parker to Wild Child the hiker, before finally emerging as Aspen Matis (the name that she answers to now, and the pseudonym used to pen the book), a fully fledged survivor.

The only arguable weakness of Girl In The Woods is that the description of the landscape along the Pacific Crest Trail is rather sparse.

Perhaps this was omitted because it was unnecessary to the narrative, but I would have appreciated more details on the desert, mountains and forests that were traversed.

I tend to notice the beauty of natural landscapes when I travel, and keenly felt the omission of detailed descriptions on the beautiful American rural landscape.

But this is a minor complaint in an otherwise outstanding memoir.


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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Father's diet has effect on health, weight of his children, new studies show

 
Two independent studies by teams in China and North America have found evidence to suggest that a father's diet can influence the health and weight of his children. — AFP pic

Two independent studies by teams in China and North America have found evidence to suggest that a father's diet can influence the health and weight of his offspring.

Published in the journal Science, both studies looked at the effects of different diets of male mice on their offspring.

The first study, by a group of researchers in China, took sperm from two groups of mice, one receiving a high-fat diet and one receiving a normal, healthier diet, and used it to impregnate female mice. Once the offspring were born, the team monitored their weight, level of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

The results showed that although the offspring of the males who were fed the high-fat diets did not gain more weight than the offspring fed the normal, healthier diet, they did show a decreased resistance to insulin and a glucose intolerance, both factors in the development of diabetes.

In the second study, researchers from the US and Canada instead fed mice a low-protein diet and compared the results to a control group. In their study, the team found changes to a group of genes responsible for the development of stem cells, which in early life can develop into many different types of cells within the body, as well as repair and replace body tissue; however, no other changes were found.

The results go against the previous assumption that the only impact males have on their offspring is from their DNA, and support the findings of other recent studies which suggest that the diet and lifestyle habits of males, like females, can have an important effect on their offspring's health.

A 2013 study by McGill University found that when male lab mice had a diet that was low in vitamin B9, also known as folate, they fathered offspring with a 30 per cent higher rate of birth defects, compared to the offspring of mice who had consumed sufficient amounts of folate.

The results led the team to conclude that although women are often encouraged to take folic acid supplements to reduce the risk of miscarriage and birth defects, “(the) research suggests that fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke and what they drink and remember they are caretakers of generations to come.”

A 2014 study from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, also showed similar results when the team of researchers mated two groups of male rats with slim, healthy female rats. One of the groups of male rats was fed a high-fat diet, while the other received a normal, healthy diet.

The results showed that the offspring born to the obese fathers who were fed a high-fat diet showed a genetic predisposition for obesity and changes to the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing insulin and regulating blood sugar levels, both important factors in diabetes.

And in the first study to be conducted on humans, after collecting medical information from both parents, as well as DNA from the umbilical cords of newborn babies, a team from Duke University, USA, found a link between obesity levels in fathers and an increased risk in their children developing health-related cancers. — AFP=Relaxnews

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