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Chile has a plan to fight obesity epidemic

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A message from The Center for Closing the Health Gap

These cookies are considered a triple threat with labels reading high in sugar, saturated fats, and calories. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/12/486898630/chile-battles-obesity-with-stop-signs-on-packaged-foods

The cases of obesity in America are still at an all-time high, with more and more people being diagnosed with chronic illness stemming from this problem. The approaches to which health professionals and other health activists have been taking to combat this problem have done little to improve the ever-increasing cases of obesity.

Could this have to do with the way that they are approaching treatment? Questions like this are starting to look at the way that America is treating this problem and what new ideas can be started to make an even bigger impact to our current health epidemic. Specifically, the question is whether Americans should look to another country’s approach in solving our own obesity epidemic?

A recent article written by Dr. Deborah Cohen, a senior physician policy researcher and faculty member at Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif., looks at the country of Chile for the answer to our problems around obesity.

Cohen said, “Chile has taken the lead in identifying and implementing obesity-control strategies that could prove to be the beginning of the end of the epidemic.’’ Its approach to this epidemic was to develop simple warning labels that let citizens know of what is unhealthy to eat when shopping. The labels are a black stop sign that have phrases such as, “high in calories” and “high in saturated fat,’’ and even “high in sugar.’’

This new marketing technique is specifically geared toward children by making any foods that have these labels illegal to be advertised to children under the age of 14 or that include toys. This also includes banning the items from being sold in or near schools. This is a bottom-up approach of teaching children much earlier about eating healthy and not even giving them the chance to be exposed to foods that are deemed as nutritionally lacking.

 

This radical way of combatting obesity has many consumers feeling as though it has positively changed their food-buying behavior, Cohen said. Nearly 40 percent of Chilean citizens now say they use the symbols to help them decide what they should buy. This way of teaching people about just how bad some of the food they eat providers a new idea to other nations around the world struggling with the obesity epidemic such as the United States.

The efforts of the United States to end obesity has been to add calories on menus, verify whether products are gluten free, and harping on the good foods that people can eat to help lose weight or maintain their health. The Chilean warning labels go around this by pointing out the bad additives that can be found in processed foods that we would otherwise not think of each day. It can be hard to understand really what calories are and what are considered good and bad nutritional calories in patients. It is all about what stands out to the consumer, and a black label that “scares” people into choosing a healthy alternative could potentially be the next best option.

`The Center for Closing the Health Gap in Greater Cincinnati is dedicated to helping you and your family live healthy lifestyles. To learn more about our efforts please visit us online: www.ClosingTheHealthGap.org; Facebook.com/CloseHealthGap; Twitter.com/CCHGcincy.

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