Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Obesity is a significant problem in the small island territory, with over 28% of youngsters reportedly defined as obese.

Puerto Rico Lawmakers Debate Fining Parents Of Obese Children

1 Share
  • Puerto Rico Lawmakers Debate Fining Parents Of Obese Children
Lawmakers in Puerto Rico are debating a controversial bill that would fine parents of obese children up to $800 if they don't make efforts to improve their child's health.
"That child is a health issue and can become an economic burden because he/she could develop heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses," Senator Jose Luis Dalmau said to El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico's largest newspaper.
The president of the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics swiftly opposed the idea.
"This is not the way to do it. This is going to bring complications because there are obese kids due to medical conditions and other genetic factors," Ricardo Fontanet told El Nuevo Día.
If the bill is approved, public school teachers would flag potential obesity cases and report them to social workers and counselors. The Health Department would then get involved and work with parents to determine if the child's obesity is due to poor eating habits or other health problems.
Parents will then be given a diet-and-exercise program, combined with monthly visits from the department. After six months, officials would evaluate the child again. If there is no improvement in the child's health in an additional six months, parents will be fined $500 to $800.
More than 28 percent of children living on the island are considered obese, compared with some 18 percent in the U.S. mainland, reports the AP.
The public hearings of the bill are scheduled to begin on Friday.
Nightly News
Paste HTML to embed video:

Experts 'Appalled' by Puerto Rican Bill to Fine Parents of Obese Children

1 Share
Obesity researchers say a Puerto Rican bill that would fine parents of obese children up to $800 is "unbelievable" and "unfair."
Puerto Rican Sen. Gilberto Rodriguez filed a bill in an attempt to curb obesity in Puerto Rico by having schools find children who are obese and then refer them to health department advisers to determine the cause of obesity, formulate a diet and exercise plan and follow up every four weeks.
If the "situation" persists six months, parents can be fined up to $500, according to the bill, and if a third progress report six months later still shows no significant weight loss, the parents can be fined up to $800.
"What's next? Will they be fining parents of children suffering from other diseases? Maybe diabetes? Maybe cancer? Maybe something else?" said Nikhil Dhurandhar, who chairs the department of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University.
Rodriguez's bill assumes that people who are obese can chose not to be, but it's not that simple, Dhurandhar said.
Dhurandhar's own research has shown obesity can be caused by a multitude of factors, including the environment in a mother's womb, too much or too little sleep and chemicals in the environment. There's more to losing weight than eating less and moving more, he said.
"This proposal is very unfair and inappropriately penalizes and stigmatizes parents," said Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. "Childhood obesity is a highly complex issue, and while the home environment is important to address, much broader societal changes are required to effectively address obesity."
Policies that support parents are much more helpful than policies that penalize them, she said. Improving access to opportunities for physical activity and providing incentives toward buying healthier food, for example, have already proven effective in cities like Philadelphia, Puhl said.
The fines this senator has proposed "drastically oversimplify obesity and are more likely to be harmful than incur any benefit," she said.

Parents of Obese Children in Puerto Rico Could Face Fines of Up to $800 

1 Share
Parents in Puerto Rico will be fined up to $800 if their children are obese, if a bill currently being debated in the legislature is implemented.
Local senator Gilberto
Rodríguez stated that the bill was aimed at improving children’s health and enabling parents to make better health choices, the Guardian reported.
Under the proposed bill,
schoolteachers would refer potential obesity cases to a counselor, who would then work with the parents of the child to create a diet and exercise program monitored by monthly visits. Failure to show improvement within six months to a year could result in fines of between $500 and $800 for the parents.
Obesity is a significant problem in the small island territory, with over 28% of youngsters reportedly defined as obese. However, several doctors, including the Puerto Rico chapter president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, have called the initiative unfair.