Childhood overweight on the rise
Is it too late to turn the tide in Latin America and the Caribbean?
In Latin America and the Caribbean, overweight is a serious public health problem that affects more than 4 million children under 5 years and almost 50 million children and adolescents between 5 and 19 years. Over the last two decades, the prevalence of overweight in children and adolescents has steadily increased in the region.
The report Childhood overweight on the rise: Is it too late to turn the tide in Latin America and the Caribbean? presents the latest available data and regional trends in childhood overweight, highlights UNICEF's response, and offers recommendations for public policy and the private sector. It also includes several examples of actions undertaken in various countries in our region.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the rate of overweight – including its severe form, obesity - in children under 5 years of age and in the 5-19 age group - is above the global average.
We must prioritize actions aimed at preventing overweight and obesity. This remains the most cost-effective solution; and early childhood and adolescence represent two unique windows of opportunity for action.
What will you find in this report?
1.1 Nutritional status in children under 5 years of age
1.2 Overweight in children and adolescents from 5 to 19 years of age
1.3 Urbanization and overweight in the region
1.4 Challenges for the approach of actions to prevent childhood overweight in Latin America
and the Caribbean
Chapter 2. UNICEF’s response and contribution to the prevention of childhood overweight in Latin America and the Caribbean
2.1 UNICEF response framework for the prevention of childhood overweight
2.2 UNICEF’s contribution to the prevention of childhood overweight
Understanding the problem
One of the main determinants of childhood overweight is obesogenic food environments, which promote the consumption of unhealthy and ultra-processed products (high in sugar, fat and salt), and limit physical activity.
These environments abound in the region, especially in urban areas, where more than 81% of the population lives (making it the second most urbanized region in the world), including an estimated more than 165 million children and adolescents. Rapid and uncontrolled urbanization has altered the availability of and access to nutritious food, healthy eating habits and physical activity options for families.
|What is an obesogenic environment?|
An obesogenic food environment is characterized by:
1) high cost and lack of access, availability and variety of healthy foods;
UNICEF's response and contribution
The prevention of childhood overweight is a collective task that requires joint actions with governments, civil society organizations, academia, the private sector, as well as other United Nations agencies.
UNICEF promotes and supports numerous initiatives and actions in the region aimed at: i) generating scientific evidence for decision-making based on children's rights; ii) improving food environments; iii) strengthening regulatory frameworks, policies and strategies for the prevention of childhood overweight; iv) promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding; v) promoting healthy eating and physical activity.
Children living with overweight or obesity are more likely to continue to have these conditions in adulthood, and to have non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and some types of cancer), as well as a shorter life expectancy.
UNICEF calls on all sectors and key actors to make it possible for children and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean to access healthy nutrition and thrive.