Mas gordo en Mexico

There is a growing problem in Mexico with obesity, and the country is beginning to resemble its rotund neighbor to the north.  Citing the OECD, the Economist notes:

“The statistics are impressive, and alarming. According to the OECD, Mexico is now the second fattest nation in that group of 30 countries. A health poll in 1999 found that 35% of women were overweight, and another 24% technically obese. Juan Rivera, an official at the National Institute of Public Health, says that the combined figure for men would be about 55%, and that a similar poll to be carried out next year will show the fat quotient rising. Only the United States, with combined figures of over 60%, is ahead.”

The article cites many factors fueling this precipitious balooning. Some of it found in diet, some in urbanization and the lack of manual labor or excercise (the country side has not seen the same increases), and a major factor is the amount of soda consumption. The aforementioned Economist article notes that Mexicans consume nearly 100 litres of soda per year, second only Americans and three times as much a Brazilians. Meanwhile, all the sugary soda consumption has caused type 2 diabetes to skyrocket. A Time Magazine article cites that from 2000 to 2006, Mexico saw a 31 percent increase in type 2 diabetes.

From San Cristobal de Las Casas

While traveling through Mexico, it is hard not to notice the ubuiquity of cola. Signs are everywhere for “Tome lo bueno,” have a coke. In part, soda is so popular because there isn´t always access to clean drinking water. But soda consumption also seems to be part of a socialized norm, albeit an unhealthy one.

Back to the overall problem of obesity in Mexico, the Mexican government has realized it has a problem and has begun carrying out a domestic public diplomacy campaign to get its citizens to lose weight. In 2008, the Calderon government announced the national campaign “Vamos por un Million de Kilos,” Let´s lose a million pounds. Time notes that the crux of this campaign includes:

“[…] working to mandate more physical education in public schools and encourage employers
and unions to give workers time for exercise. The administration of President Felipe Calderon says it has built or renovated more than 800 public sports facilities around the country. The National Institute of Public Health is promoting food education and healthier choices in schools, such as fruits and vegetables instead of chips and soda.”

That Mexico is aware of its weight problem and is carrying out a public diplomacy campaign is a good first step, but it will take some serious work to shed the added kilos and socialize a real lifestyle change.