Chile is among the top five nations leading the world in childhood obesity, according to new statistics released by Junaeb, a Chilean organization focused on children and education.
Approximately 18% of Chilean students are obese, compared to the current rate of 16% in the U.S. That Chile has surpassed even the U.S. in levels of childhood obesity particularly worries health experts, given that the U.S. is generally said to be suffering from a national “obesity epidemic.”
News of Chile’s alarming new distinction brought immediate response from government and health officials. Senator Guido Girardi, president of the Senate’s Health committee and a practicing physician, called for an immediate analysis of the factors contributing to the epidemic, enlisting the expertise of Secretary of Health Lidia Amarales and Ricardo Uauy, president of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences.
“The number of obese children in Chile has only grown. Clearly, the government’s plan to reduce obesity levels to 12% by 2010 has thus far failed” said Uauy. Although Chile’s childhood obesity problem is reportedly worse than that of the U.S., Uauy emphasized that the U.S. is no example of nutritional health.
“We can’t take them as an example in this matter – we need to model ourselves after a country like Japan, which, in this respect, is one of the world’s healthiest countries”.
Measures proposed by Girardi to combat the pervasive problem include outlawing the sale of junk food in schools and limiting advertising targeted at children.
This announcement follows a report this week by Nutrimóvil of Nestlé that Santiago residents exceed a healthy body mass index by an average of three points. The study attributes Santiago’s obesity problem in part to the sedentary lifestyle many residents lead.
An astounding 91.2% of Chileans said they never participated in any form of physical activity, according to the 2000 National Health Survey, released in 2003. The study also found that 61.3% of Chileans are overweight.