February 12, 2015 by MICHAEL HAUSAM
In U.S. Territory Puerto Rico on Monday, legislators proposed a bill that would fine parents if their children are obese.
The fines, up to $800, would not be immediate, but would be assessed if the parents fail to successfully follow recommendations. The process would go like this:
- Education officials would officially notify parents if their child is obese.
- Health officials would work with parents to identify the cause and create a plan to help the child to lose weight.
- A series of monthly follow-ups and assessments would occur.
- If after 6 months a determination is made that the parents were not following the plan or if sufficient weight loss has not occurred, the case would be referred to child services for potential fines up to $800.
The sponsoring legislators assert that the obesity epidemic is growing, parents need to be enabled to make better health decisions, and that curbing childhood obesity is “necessary for society” due to its costs.
Compared to the U.S., Puerto Rico’s obesity rate is high: 30 percent of the island’s children are considered obese compared to 18% on the mainland. Only 12 U.S. states had a higher rate of adults who were either obese or overweight in 2013, according to the CDC.
Over the last few decades, childhood obesity has definitely become a big issue:
The proposal is not without its critics, as one could imagine. Some nutritionists argue that genetics are a major contributing cause while others say it’s not the role of the government to interfere in child raising to such an extent. The phrase “nanny state” immediately comes to mind.
On the other hand, given the increased role the government has in providing healthcare and that its costs are now borne the collective population, it certainly can be argued that the state has an interest. It will certainly be worth watching to see how the legislators in Puerto Rico decide this issue, because such a proposal made here in the 50 states would certainly have some reception legislatively.
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