Mexico is a world leader for its combined overweight and obesity rates among adults, according to a report published yesterday by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
Almost three-quarters of the population aged over 15 suffers from one of the two conditions with 33.3% considered obese and 39.2% overweight, the annual Health at a Glance report said.
While Mexico has the worst combined rate of the 35 OECD member countries, the United States beat it to the top spot for obesity with 38.2% of its population suffering from that condition.
Still, the figures are worrying and show that obesity in Mexico has increased by 3.3% over the last 10 years.
“Obesity means higher risk of chronic illnesses, particularly hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” the report said.
At 15.8%, the rate for diabetes in Mexico is the highest among OECD countries and more than double the average rate of 7%.
Obesity is reducing both the quality of life and life expectancy of Mexicans, the report said, although it also recognized that some progress related to public policy has been made on the issue.
The so-called sugary drink tax or soda tax that increased the cost of popular beverages, labeling that contains greater nutritional information and improved regulations surrounding the advertising of food to children were all cited as steps forward in the battle against the problem.
The first year after the soda tax was introduced, a 5.5% reduction in consumption was recorded followed by a further 9.7% drop in the second year with families of low socio-economic status shown to be the most likely to change their consumption patterns.
Life expectancy of about 75 years is lower than the average of 80 across OECD countries, the report said, adding that while the average life span has increased significantly since the 1970s, the rate of growth has slowed since the year 2000.
The obesity figures in this latest report are certain to cause concern both among policymakers and the general population, but it also contains some encouraging signs for public health here.
Daily tobacco use has fallen and at 7.6% is well below the average rate across OECD countries, where it stands at 18.4%, while average per-capita alcohol consumption at 5.2 liters annually is also below the OECD figure of nine liters per person per year.
Mexico’s health care expenditure lags behind other nations, however, with just 1,080 pesos (US $56) spent annually per person compared to 4,000 pesos (US $208) per person on average in the OECD. Out-of-pocket payments by households make up over 40% of all health spending in Mexico, over twice the average rate.
The OECD report said that is essential for Mexico to improve its health care system because it is plagued with inefficiencies and fragmented, meaning that the level of care and prices offered to patients can vary significantly.
However, the OECD warned that it’s not just a matter of allocating additional funds to the system in order to improve it but ensuring that those funds are spent wisely.
Source: El Universal (sp)