Anti-Obesity Law Could Have Big Consequences

By Corey Zoubkov ’16

Lawmakers in Puerto Rico introduced a bill that could have education officials identify obese children and help parents address the issue. If passed, these parents will be allowed six months to get their children healthy. If the parents don’t get their kids healthy, they could be labeled abusive or mistreated. To top it all off, $500 in fines may have to be paid if this deadline is not reached. Wait six more, and you’re looking at another fine of $800.

                In 2011, the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published a study titled “Occurrence and correlates of overweight and obesity among island Puerto Rican youth”. The study concluded that youth in Puerto Rico have higher rates of obesity than here in mainland America. 40% of Puerto Rican youth between ages 10 and 19 were reported overweight or obese by 2008 US Census data.

                While we have an obesity epidemic here, Puerto Rico clearly has a much larger issue at hand. It is in their best interest to take some kind of actions.

                But why fine the parents? Sometimes, having an unhealthy child is not totally in a parent’s control. Some parents may be too busy to track everything their kid eats. There may be no guardians to take them outside for physical activity. Some parents may simply be unaware of how to live a healthy lifestyle.

                Other parents might not know how to take a stance against their children. Kids can be out of control. Parenting doesn’t come with a manual, and it takes time to master the craft. Though this is something the parent has control over, lacking the skills doesn’t constitute a $500 fine.

                Some children might need more help than others. Obesity may take a long time to defeat.

Children may also be overworked to meet the six month deadline, depending how bad their case it. Turning an obesity problem into a child abuse problem doesn’t solve anything.

                There are many other factors that come into play with obesity, not just parenting. In 2011, the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reported in a study titled “An overview analysis of the time people spend outdoors” that people spend one to two hours per day outside in the summer.

                Summer time is when kids are free from school and the weather is great. We live in a digital age, with lots of technology and more ways to entertain ourselves in one location. Though a necessity, outdoor activity is becoming a less significant part of our lives.

                Some might argue that this an outright invasion of government into personal lives. While that may be true, a law that enforces a healthy lifestyle could leave a positive impact.

                Puerto Rico think twice before passing their bill aiming to fight child obesity.  It is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed in the commonwealth. Fining parents will not solve the issue though. Education officials responsible for identifying children as obese should investigate each individual case instead of going straight for the parents. It may not be the parents’ fault, and there are many other reasons why obesity is so prevalent in Puerto Rico.

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