According to a survey carried out by the Chilean Association of School Assistance and Scholarships (Junaeb) 19.4% of Chileans between the ages 9 and 11, are obese. This is particularly severe in the extreme south of the country where it affects 25% of children.
This figure means that Chile suffers from a higher frequency of childhood obesity than in many other developed and developing countries, including the United States. Chile's childhood obesity rate has increased repeatedly in recent years, jumping from 18.4% in 2005 to its current figure. Still, in the southern areas of Aysen and Magallanes, this problem affects as much as 25% of children. Junaeb employees say that children's food consumption lies at the heart of the issue. In efforts to combat rising obesity, that organization has already tried to make their school lunches healthier; their school meals now include more fruits and vegetables and less fatty foods. Still, according to Junaeb director Cristian Martinez, children indulge themselves in unhealthy food at home. "There have been drastic changes in Chilean households (ÃÂ¢€Ã‚Â¦) children should not have access to all the food that they want at home. Some parents even give their children fast food on a regular basis." Aside from the types of food Chilean children consume, Martinez emphasized that the quantities of food consumed are also too large. He cited examples of children who eat breakfast at school after already having eaten at home. In order to reverse this trend, Martinez believes that schools should further incorporate physical fitness into their curriculum and that children should simply eat healthier foods. Childhood obesity is by no means a Chilean problem. Roughly 18.8% of children in the U.S. are considered obese. Regionally, 13% of Brazilians between the ages of 9 and 11 and 9.2% of Argentines in that age rage are considered obese. Currently 3.4 million Chileans suffer from obesity – a figure predicted to rise to four million by 2010. Despite promising to reduce the population's obesity from 16% in 2000 to 12% by 2010, Chile's government has done little to combat this "epidemic." A shocking 22% of Chile's overall population is classified as obese. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Chile has one of the highest obesity rates in South America, second only to Bolivia. The Santiago Times