Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Obesity Epidemic in Brazil and Argentina: A Public Health Concern

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Obesity Epidemic in Brazil and Argentina: A Public Health Concern

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Obesity is a worldwide health and sociopolitical problem. Excessive body-weight currently affects over 50% of the Brazilian and Argentinian populations. This picture is similar to other countries in the world nowadays (1,2). Only in 1985, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized obesity as a disease. However, the global prevalence of obesity has doubled since 1980, requiring the attention of authorities (2). The knowledge about this disease has increased since the 1990s. We now have a better, broader understanding of the metabolic and hormonal changes that underlie its development in the human body (3).

Prevalence of obesity in the Mercosur

The nutrition transition phenomenon has been described in Brazil as in other developing countries (4). Since the 1970s, the occurrence of famine in the population has rapidly decreased but the prevalence of obesity has increased on an even faster rate (5). An Argentinian survey (6) revealed that 50.5% of the population exceeded expected healthy weights. Of these, 34.8% were overweight [a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 25 kg/[m.sup.2]] and 14.8% were obese (BMI over 30 kg/[m.sup.2]). Regarding gender, 40.3% of females and 59.7% of males were overweight. Among adults, the largest percentage of overweight persons was found in people between 35 and 64 years of age; In Brazil, a study done by the Ministry of Health (7) in 2011 showed that 48.1% of the population was either overweight (33.1%) or obese (15%). In 2006, these figures were 22.7% and 11.4%. Thus, a rise in the incidence of obesity is evident and worrysome (7). A research conducted in 2008-2009 indicated that 50% of men and 48% of women had excess weight, and 12.5% of men and 16.9% of women were obese. Childhood obesity is also a concern. One in every three children between five and nine years of age was overweight. In 34 years, overweight Brazilian adolescents (10 to 19 years) grew from 3.7% to 21.7% in this age-group, indicating a six-fold rise (8).

Social impact

The public opinion increasingly regards obesity as a growing and dangerous health hazard. The media in both countries actively discuss the national risks of childhood obesity, looking for public and private solutions (9,10). However, no successes have yet been achieved, and the epidemic only increased (6,7). A recent study has indicated that half of the adult population of the United States will be obese by 2030, resulting in a consequent increase in the incidence of diabetes, stroke, and cancer relating to excess weight. Efforts to address the problem are lacking. It has been suggested that a solution can only be found through direct intervention of governments and authorities (11). The implementation of corrective public health policies could be a valid approach towards control of obesity (12). The increasing occurrence of this disease has a significant impact on economic and social structures, swelling both governmental and private healthcare costs. In turn, it generates unprecedented social and juridical demands as the right to health clearly stated in the Federal Constitutions. Thus, the creation and expansion of specific laws that address the issue of obesity are a natural consequence (13). Effective policies to promote healthier weight may bring economic benefits and reduce health costs.

Legal systems at the Mercosur

Brazil and Argentina share very similar legal systems. Both are representative young democracies (around 30 years old); both have a presidential government system, a still-inadequate income distribution, and belong to the same commonwealth of Mercosur. They share a parliament for the Mercosur and many common laws and health initiatives. They represent, indeed, the two most important economies and countries of South America. In both nations, there are three echelons of litigation: first (entrance level), second, and third (higher) level courts. …

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