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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Health Dept. issues action plan to curb island’s rising obesity rates


A new Health Department plan to raise awareness about the dangers of obesity establishes action strategies to promote healthy lifestyles for all, emphasizing strategies for children and adults.

By The Star Staff


The Food and Nutrition Commission of Puerto Rico (CANPR by its Spanish initials), which is attached to the Health Department, presented a new action plan over the weekend for the prevention of obesity in Puerto Rico and to raise awareness about the dangers of obesity, which is on the rise on the island.


“Obesity is silent and affects people of all ages,” CANPR Chairwoman Nivia A. Fernández Hernández said. “It’s time to commit to adopting healthy habits. We must take action and prioritize obesity prevention.”


The new plan, which is in line with public health policy, establishes action strategies to promote healthy lifestyles for all, emphasizing action strategies for children and adults.


Records indicate that from 2014 to 2022, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults aged 18 years or older increased to 70.7% from 65.9% in Puerto Rico, according to data from the Risk Factor Surveillance System. The prevalence of childhood obesity fluctuates between 18% and 24%. The World Health Organization published in 2021 that more than 2.8 million people die each year in the world due to obesity.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Puerto Rico has an obesity prevalence of 30–35%.


In Puerto Rico, more than a third of adults are obese.


The plan establishes several strategic lines to guide multisectoral efforts over the next two years. These are: primary health care and promotion of breastfeeding and healthy eating; improving the environment concerning nutrition and physical activity; tax policies and regulation of food advertising; surveillance, research and evaluation.


Other proposed measures include providing public urban spaces for physical activity, and implementing recreational cycle path programs, rapid public transport systems, and family farming initiatives.


Fernández Hernández note that the new plan, which covers 2023-2025, is part of the joint efforts of the CANPR and the Pan American Health Organization together with interagency and multisectoral sectors, such as government officials, academics and experts in the field of health, food, nutrition and physical activity, and members of the food industry, and professional and nonprofit organizations, among others.


CANPR Executive Director Luz Rodríguez said “the Action Plan for the Prevention of Obesity in Puerto Rico aims to stop the accelerated increase in obesity so that there is no increase in current prevalence rates.”


Obesity is one of the risk factors for the development of chronic diseases in Puerto Rico, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular diseases. Thus the call is for citizens to maintain a healthy diet, control it, and maintain a healthy weight.

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