By Benjamin Flowers, Staff Reporter
To address the high prevalence of child obesity, Puerto Rican Senator Gilbert Rodriguez Valle introduced a bill which could have the parents of obesed children fined.
The bill, which was introduced on Wednesday, would subject parents to a fine if their child’s obesity could be determined as a form of parental neglect.
The proposed bill outlined a system where once obesed children are identified and the education authority would educate parents on the consequences.
Afterwards the the health department would work with the parents on a plan for the child to lose weight. If the child’s condition does not improve within six months, child and family services would be contacted, and if the situation persists after their involvement, parents could face a US $800 fine.
The bill has come under heavy criticism by medical professionals in Puerto Rico, calling the bill an overreach of government.
Nutritionist, Milly Garcia said that the legislation would not adequately address the issue of child obesity, because there is no direct link between obesity and parental neglect or abuse.
“This is not abuse, it’s a disease. It would mean entering into a private area where the government does not belong. Obesity is the result of many factors and what we need to do is find solutions,” Garcia told the international media.
Puerto Rico has a child obesity prevalence of over 28 percent.
In Belize childhood obesity has become a concern of the Ministry of Health as well as other non-governmental organizations.
Belize has a prevalence of seven percent in children under five years old, a fact discussed at a meeting of Belizean healthcare stakeholders and the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP) last september.
The Ministry of Health and the other stake holders have led massive public awareness campaigns on the dangers of not eating healthy. Information on balanced diets is also increasingly being made available for public consumption.