Every week, Mexicali physician Eduardo Sambrano Silva sees five children who exhibit signs of being obese or overweight. He is not alone. In Mexico, an estimated 30 percent of children are considered obese, with the percentage even higher in the border state of Baja California, where 38 percent of minors are classified as obese, according to a state health department official.
Laurencia Gurrola Gal Cordoba, chief of the health promotion section of the Baja California state health ministry, said lack of physical activity and bad eating habits are two of the reasons for an obese juvenile population. The over-weight condition of young people is triggering other health problems, Gurrola warned.
“We’ve seen diabetes in younger and younger people, even 13 or 14 years of age,” Gurrola said. “This is a sign of alarm.”
Youth obesity was high on the agenda of an international symposium held this month in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, where state lawmakers sat down with health care professionals to dialogue about pending legislation.
Carlos Ruiz Vazquez, president of the Chihuahua Medical Association, blamed soft drinks for causing serious health problems in adults as well as children. Ruiz said that because 70 percent of the adult population in Mexico is overweight or obese, firm action is needed to control or even ban soft drinks. In addition to diabetes, Ruiz mentioned hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and other ailments as consequences of a poor national diet.
Chihuahua state legislator Patricia Alamillo, president of the state Congress’ health commission, said legislators are considering banning the sale of soft drinks in primary schools. A similar measure has been adopted by the Mexican state of Jalisco.
According to Ruiz, a big task in encouraging healthy habits involves educating the public about the quality and quantity of the food it consumes.
“The obesity problem must be addressed since children are fat after reaching two years of age,” Ruiz said. “This has to begin at home.
Ruiz said another meeting between legislators and representatives of health care professionals will be held soon in Chihuahua.
Sources: El Diario de Juarez, April 18, 2009. Article by Pedro Sanchez Briones. Frontera, April 18, 2009.