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The social and economic costs of obesity in Latin America: a call to action

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The social and economic costs of obesity in Latin America: a call to action

January 18, 2018

There are more obese than underweight people in every region of the world except for parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. In Latin America, overweight and obesity have risen significantly in the last few decades due to increasing urbanisation; less manual work; access to processed food; less physically active lifestyles and more screen-based activity.

In November 2016 the Sodexo Institute for Quality of Life held a round-table ‘Dialogue’ with experts from Mexico, Brazil and Chile to understand better: what is obesity? what are the social and economic costs of obesity and where are they seen? what does ‘obesity’ mean in Latin America? what is the difference between adult obesity and child obesity? what are the responsibilities and successes of the public, private and NGO sectors? what are the most significant risks and opportunities? what should be done?

As set out in its report ‘The social and economic costs of obesity in Latin America: a call to action’, the Sodexo Institute for Quality of Life found that obesity is truly an ‘epidemic’ in Latin America. The main challenges are:

  • A lack of perception and awareness among the general population

  • Easy access to highly processed food and drink combined with targeted marketing

  • Inadequate access to nutritious food and drink among the less educated and lower income population

  • Inadequate governance and a lack of cross-sector collaboration

  • Growing risks concerning transparency and the perceived integrity of stakeholders such as researchers

One of the best ways to tackle obesity in Latin America may be to look ‘beyond the navel’ – to climate change and demographic change – to work together and achieve the popular support necessary to inspire new forms of governance that will feel empowered to address these pressing 21st century challenges to our quality of life.

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