Lawmakers in Puerto Rico are considering a bill that would punish parents of obese children with a fine of up to $800, the Guardian is reporting.
The proposed bill would require public school teachers to be on the lookout for kids who may be at risk for obesity, and to refer them to a social worker or a counselor. Officials from Puerto Rico’s Health Department would meet with the parents to come up with a plan of action, which would include diet, exercise, and monthly or weekly follow-up visits, to make sure parents are complying. Exceptions would be made for children whose obesity is the result of a medical condition.
After six months, according to WPXI (Pittsburgh), the obese child’s case would be re-visited. If no progress has been made, the family would be given another six months to a year to comply. If no progress is made by then, the parents would face fines of between $500 and $800.
Senator Jose Luis Dalmau, in remarks via Fox News Latino, said that monitoring of obese children, and fines for parents for not sufficiently addressing their children’s weight problems, are necessary for Puerto Rican society.
“Here in ‘La Isla del Encanto’ there are no consequences. The obese child is a health problem that can become a financial burden because the child can develop diabetes, heart ailments and other diseases.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines childhood obesity as “a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific CDC BMI-for-age growth charts.”
Childhood obesity is a problem in the mainland United States. Some 18 percent of children are considered obese, according to CDC estimates. The situation in Puerto Rico, however, is much worse: estimates indicate that some 28 percent of children in Puerto Rico may be at risk of childhood obesity.
Regardless, not everyone in Puerto Rico is on board with the idea of fining parents for their children’s obesity. Ricardo Fontanet, of the Puerto Rican chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that the plan doesn’t sufficiently address possible medical reasons for obesity.
“It’s not the right way to address this problem. It’s going to bring more problems because there are children who are overweight due to underlying medical issues and genetic factors.”
And nutritionist Milly Garcia believes the proposed fines are an unnecessary intrusion of the Puerto Rican government into families’ private lives.
“The fact that these childhood obesity cases are rooted in lifestyle does not give one the right to step into people’s private spaces. 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.”
Do you believe that Puerto Rico’s plan to fine parents of obese children is the right way to fight childhood obesity? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image courtesy of: Gallery Hip]