LaSalud.mx .-Civil organizations El Poder del Consumidor, ContraPESO and the Children’s Rights Network of Mexico (REDIM), were present today at the Chamber of Deputies during the forum A healthy school environment. Upcoming agenda in Mexico to support the initiative with a draft decree to amend various articles of the General Education Law on a healthy school environment proposed by the Federal Deputy Armando Contreras Castillo, from PG of MORENA.
The aim of the initiative is to improve the school environment to make it a healthy space. The reforms presented in March 2022 reduce the duties and powers of education and health authorities in school meals and physical activity. Likewise, the General Education Act has been strengthened and harmonized with the provisions of the General Health Act in the component of overweight, obesity and warning labelling, thus ensuring the care and protection of girls, boys and adolescents in a school environment, as is established by the General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents 2014.
In his speech, Dip. Armando Contreras, secretary of the Education Commission, thanked the support of international organizations, civil society and national health institutes, in the face of a problem that will set the cornerstone in the transformation of education in Mexico and stated: “Mexico ranks first in childhood obesity in the world. The approval of the initiative that I presented in the Chamber of Deputies on a healthy school environment is urgent, in order to protect and assert the right of children and adolescents to adequate food, we can no longer continue to allow the school environment to be a place where the commercial interests of industries for unhealthy food they profit at the expense of children’s health”.
The design of the proposal justifies the urgency of its approval, given the public health problems facing the country stemming from the obesity and diabetes epidemics that affect the population and from which girls and boys are not excluded. An estimated 4 million girls and boys in Mexico are overweight and obese, and one in two is expected to develop diabetes in their lifetime. For this reason, organizations UN such as FAO, UNICEF and PAHO, as well as national ones such as the National Institute of Public Health, In addition to independent experts, parents and civil society organizations, they point out that schools have a fundamental role in the education of girls and boys, so it is essential that public and private institutions join the action to create and promote safe, healthy and sustainable school environments.
The Dr. Hugo López-Gatel, The Department of Health’s Under-Secretary for Prevention and Health Promotion commented: “It is vitally important that we close the door on these toxic products and do so from the very beginning of people’s lives, in the primary school environment and of course continue it in secondary and higher secondary education. These regulations should be strict, prohibitive and attractive and build on what has already been worked on”.
in turn Alexander Calvillo, director of El Poder del Consumidor, pointed out that “since 2010 there have been guidelines for food and drink in schools aimed at eliminating unhealthy products. But due to poor design and lack of will, they were not implemented. School environments are obesogenic environments, that is, schools are obesity factories. We ask that legislators independent of corporate interests protect this initiative from the interference of other legislators who might serve the interests of these companies, legislators who dare not say they are against guaranteeing healthy food in schools and therefore resort to fictitious technical arguments for blocking these initiatives”.
Participants in the forum expressed their concern about the reality of schools in Mexico and the few regulations of school cooperatives, which, added to low budgets for the maintenance of facilities, have in many cases been determining factors in tolerating the sale and distribution of low-nutrition foods and beverages value that exceed the critical ingredients. Evidence shows that in one school day, girls and boys consume about 550 kcal (equivalent to almost 50% of daily energy requirements) as a result of access to junk and sugary drinks high in calories, sugar, fat and sodium, as well as dyes and additives that have a negative impact on their health and learning.
Dore Castillo, coordinator of the ContraPESO coalition, pointed out that “for more than a decade, it has been denounced that students continue to be exposed to aggressive marketing and advertising of unhealthy products. There is already evidence of action. Now is the time for lawmakers to recognize this urgent need: we need schools to monitor nutrition, encourage physical activity, and ensure that while girls and boys stay there, no unhealthy products and no harmful commercial practices will jeopardize their growth and development.
The Dr Simon Barquera, director of the Center for Research on Nutrition and Health at the National Institute of Public Health, added: “The main barrier to protecting the school environment is the commercial determinants, the interference of the junk food industry. Similarly, it is important to consider the messages present in the environment that influence the decisions of children and adolescents.
Tanya Ramirez, director of the Children’s Rights Network in Mexico (REDIM), “The orientation of public and private activities must be regulated based on human rights standards, there must be a prohibitive action that limits the presence and marketing of these products. The industry must heed all voices as a call for innovation.”
During the forum, representatives of UN agencies, academia, civil society and stakeholders called on MPs from all parliamentary groups to pass laws putting the best interests of children first and guaranteeing their rights to health, education, information and a healthy environment. above the interests of industry. They emphasized that the international community, convened by the United Nations at the Education Transformation Summit, to be held from 16 to 19 September this year, called for strengthening political commitment to ensure comprehensive education in a safe and healthy environment, supporting decisions on a solid evidence base for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 corresponding to Quality Education.
“The lifetime cost of treating obesity in girls and boys is 4.5 million pesos. Schools are one of the main settings where intervention is needed to combat this health problem. It is possible to move from an obese school environment that creates a burden on the health and economic system to a healthy school environment that contributes to the health of girls, boys and adolescents,” he stressed. Mauro Brerohead of nutrition for UNICEF Mexico.
In turn, Dr. Mario Zapata, Advisor on Chronic Diseases and Mental Health of PAHO/WHO Mexico “We are forced to rethink the problem and the solution for health. The root of the problem lies in the interests of the food industry in the availability and consumption of ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks. And of course, the problem can also exist due to defects in public policy”.
At the end of the meeting, Enrique Perez, father of a family, claims: “It is unacceptable that every third girl and boy suffers from obesity and overweight. That one in two will develop diabetes in their lifetime. Garbage must be eliminated from schools, the winners from food waste are the industry and the losers are the Mexicans”.