Puerto Rico May Fine Parents Of Obese Kids

Obesekids 021715

Lawmakers in the United States territory of Puerto Rico are considering a bill that would punish parents of obese children with fines if the children do not lose weight.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Gilberto Rodríguez, would make the Department of Education in Puerto Rico responsible for identifying children who are at risk for obesity, but not due to preexisting medical conditions. Then, health officials would indicate obesity health risks to parents. If the child's condition does not progress within six months, parents could be fined $500. If after another six months the child's condition does not improve, the fine could be $800.

The controversial bill is in response to the relatively high obesity rate in Puerto Rico, where almost 30% of the children are considered obese. The obesity rate among children in mainland U.S, on the other hand, is just 18%.

However, many do not agree with the new bill. "The Obesity Society" and "The Obesity Action Coalition" call it a misguided policy that ignores the core scientific understanding of obesity as a disease.

"Obesity is a disease, not a choice made by parents or their children," said Nikhil Dhurandhar, TOS President and professor and chair of the department of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University. "A complex combination of biological and environmental factors contributes to determining the body weight of an individual. Further, many known and unknown biological factors, in addition to personal nutrition and physical activity decisions, may interfere with weight loss, reinforcing the fact that we can't treat obesity solely by placing the blame on parents, or individuals. The development of obesity and resistance to weight loss is multifactorial, stemming from a variety of issues, including those that are biological, genetic, environmental and societal. A simplistic view of obesity and its treatment shows gross disregard for currently available scientific information."

Many put the blame for Puerto Rico's obesity problem especially for children on U.S. fast food corporations such as McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Wendy's.

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