Background: Noncommunicable disease burden is rising in Malaysia, accounting for 72% of all deaths. Urbanization and globalization have contributed to changing patterns of diet and physical activity, creating an obesogenic environment that increases noncommunicable disease risk, especially in low-income populations. Community-based and technological interventions can play an important role in addressing structural determinants that influence noncommunicable disease burden. The Better Health Programme Malaysia aims to co-create and develop a community-based digital intervention for low-income populations to enable community stakeholders to address obesogenic environments and improve people's knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to noncommunicable disease risk.
Methods: This quasi-experimental study will assess community member and community health volunteer knowledge, attitudes, and practices on noncommunicable disease prevention, risk factors, and health-seeking behavior in three geographical areas of Kuala Lumpur, each representing a different ethnicity (Malay, Indian, and Chinese). Assessment will take place before and after a 9-month intervention period, comparing intervention areas with matched control geographies. We plan to engage 2880 community members and 45 community health volunteers across the six geographic areas. A digital health needs assessment will inform modification of digital health tools to support project aims. Intervention co-creation will use a discrete choice experiment to identify community preferences among evidence-based intervention options, building from data collected on community knowledge, attitudes, and practices. Community health volunteers will work with local businesses and other stakeholders to effect change in obesogenic environments and NCD risk. The study has been approved by the Malaysian Ministry of Health Medical Research Ethical Committee.
Discussion: The Better Health Programme Malaysia anticipates a bottom-up approach that relies on community health volunteers collaborating with local businesses to implement activities that address obesogenic environments and improve community knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to NCD risk. The planned co-creation process will determine which interventions will be most locally relevant, feasible, and needed. The effort aims to empower community members and community health volunteers to drive change that improves their own health and wellbeing. The learnings can be useful nationally and sub-nationally in Malaysia, as well as across similar settings that are working with community stakeholders to reduce noncommunicable disease risk.
Trial registration: National Medical Research Register, Malaysia; NMRR-20-1004-54787 (IIR); July 7, 2020.