The campaign entails a Vitagen truck showcasing information on probiotics from a recent UKM Medical Centre (PPUKM) study on the probiotic strains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus paracasei, which are used in Vitagen products.
The clinical study reported that both strains had a positive effect on digestive health and the immune system, since approximately 70% to 80% of the immune system is located in the gut.
The truck, which is usually parked outside a shopping mall or office building for several hours a day, will also feature interactive digestive health games, product samples, and promotional products for sale.
Additionally, members of the public will be able to receive health screenings and advice on gut health from on-site gastroenterology nurses, consult with on-site nutritionists and fitness professionals, and take home stool testing kits — all free of charge.
According to GM Poh Eng Lip, this mobile initiative is the first of its kind, and will help to highlight the importance of gut health for immunity, mental clarity, and balanced mood to the public.
Public outreach through probiotics
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, brand manager Nordina Baharum said: "We showcase our recent research by PPUKM on our two probiotic strains, and offer health screening and professional advice, bringing this to the public to help them understand how important probiotics are for gut health.
She added that Vitagen Malaysia had been working with a local NGO, the Digestive Health Malaysia Society, to provide free stool testing kits to encourage people to familiarise themselves with their own gut health.
"Our nurses speak to them about their gut condition, and if it is crucial, we will give them a stool test kit to use at home. It's similar to a pregnancy test kit, in that two lines indicate possible gut health issues, and users can bring their kits and samples to any GP or government hospital to check if they need further consultations or procedures, like a colonoscopy or endoscopy.
"At big events, such as carnivals, we will also have a truck where people can buy Vitagen products, along with our health truck."
Education and perception
Baharum emphasised the need for more public education on the prevalent health issues in Malaysia, such as obesity and diabetes, both of which have been linked to gut health.
"We need to have a lot of education in Malaysia on these issues. When it comes to obesity and diabetes, sugar content is always an issue, so we promote our reduced sugar variant heavily. The problem is that Malaysians know about the problem of high sugar content, but many of them don't care.
"So instead of having people come to us at workshops or events, we prefer to go to people and teach them why gut health is important and how they can take charge of it, and whenever we hold any event, we offer only our reduced sugar variety."
Unlike in Singapore, where only the collagen and reduced sugar varieties of Vitagen are sold, Malaysia's Ministry of Health requires that the regular variety be available in order for the reduced sugar variety to also be sold.
Baharum further said, "Normally, Vitagen is perceived as a children's drink, but because we've been embarking on many projects and activities to change this perception, people have gradually begun to understand its importance for overall gut health."
Travel and technology
The Digestive Health On Wheels initiative will focus on Klang Valley initially, and may eventually move on to Johor Bahru, Penang and Kuantan, depending on public response.
In light of the public-private partnerships the Malaysian government has been engaging in, we asked if Vitagen Malaysia has any plans to launch an app to aid users with information on gut health.
Baharum said: "We use social media and our own digital platform to educate consumers, especially millennials, on digestive health. But in terms of apps, we lack the back-end support needed to develop apps.
"However, if the MOH would like to tie up with us to develop such an app, we'd be happy to do so."