Despite high rates of poverty in Mexico, over the past few years, the country’s rate of obesity skyrocketed. By 2013, Mexico finally ousted the United States as the most obese country in the west. Obesity not only affected adults but children as well. To add to this, Mexico had the highest rate of diabetes in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The Mexican Solution
As a result, the Mexican government acted swiftly by taxing one of the main culprits of obesity – soda, and all other “sugar-sweetened beverages.” In its early stages, the bill received a lot of resistance from lobbyists in the food and beverage industry. But this did little to stop the government from imposing the 20% sales tax, which took effect in 2014.
During this time, the Mexican President also launched a campaign to combat obesity. President Enrique Pena Nieto made several appearances, asking his fellow citizens to “dedicate at least one hour per day to exercise or a physical activity, which doesn’t require much effort but that breaks with sedentary lifestyles… be it walking, climbing stairs…”
The President then moved on to tax other unhealthy foods, including chocolate, which was invented by the ancestors of the Mexican people. In 2014, he also banned soft drink ads on TV, and at movie theatres.
Effects of the PR Campaign
This multi-layered strategy gained attention from around the world and very soon, began bringing in results for the nation. The government then used the tax revenue to provide better access to drinking water on school premises.
As sugary drinks and junk food became more expensive, Mexicans also pursued healthier choices. According to a study conducted by the BMJ, the consumption of soda and sugary beverages dropped by 12% in just one year, while people bought 4% more water.
What Americans can Learn from this Move
A nation known for a near-obsession with fighting for its rights and freedoms, these restrictions would cause anuproar on American shores. In fact, several attempts to pass similar bills at the state level received even greater resistance than in Mexico, and in these cases, actually won. Yet, if the American government truly intends to fight the obesity problem, taking action at the state and federal level is paramount.
Even so, there is still the route of decreasing the appearance of fast food on TV and radio. Rather than ban ads, broadcasting networks could receive incentives for featuring more healthy food options in advertisements. Encouraging change, rather than enforcing it.
School and work cafeterias could also receive incentives for providing healthier food options. Even restaurants and other players in the food and beverage industry could receive similar incentives; encouraging fast food chains to make healthier meals for public consumption.
In the End
Regardless of what route America takes, the fact remains something must be done – and soon. Despite Mexico overtaking as the fattest country in the Americas, the United States doesn’t fall too far behind.
After the success Mexico enjoys from putting these measures in place, more countries may adopt similar tactics. And as a leader of change, America should make attempts to get ahead of the game creating a healthier, and more productive population.