Chile is a South American country that occupies a long, narrow strip of land mass with Pacific Ocean bordering to the west. It is one of South America’s most socially and economically stable nations. It is a high-income economy which contributes to a high living standard for the Chilean population. Owing to the high-income groups and an affluent lifestyle, a nagging problem that has affected the country largely over the years is obesity. The population of Chile is of 18 million people, out of which a large number of population, specifically 88%, lives in an urban setting. Average life expectancy is 78 years
Health demographics in Chile undergone striking changes in the past 50 years. Various considerable epidemiological and nutritional changes have been observed in the country. Malnutrition rate has been reduced to extremely low rates of around 2-3 % and the prevalence of undernourished pregnant women is 13-14%. However, an unhealthy dietary pattern teamed with an inactive sedentary lifestyle has been a curse developed owing to the progress made in urbanization and industrialization of Chile in the past century. A rapid transition in the diet to increased consumption of high energy-dense foods and caloric beverages, sweeteners, animal source meals has been observed. An unhealthy dietary pattern, teamed with a sedentary lifestyle, is implicated with all-time high rates of obesity in the country. The prevalence rate of obesity in this South American country as well whole of America is steadily increasing and a large chunk of the population has been diagnosed with numerous chronic illnesses that arise from obesity.
Identifying the graveness of the health conditions of the country in this ongoing epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases associated with it, which has affected many countries globally, Chile country has taken the initiative to formulate definitive actions for curbing obesity in the country. Initiatives taken by Chile are being looked upon as the source of the beginning of the end of the obesity epidemic. A first of its kind national policy was implemented in Chile by the government in June 2016 that combined warning labels on unhealthy food items and placement of restrictions on marketing of unhealthy foods. This policy was formulated with 4 key components that would serve as guidelines for the public to choose food wisely and stop eating unhealthy foods.
The primary component of the policy includes the provision of correct nutritional information. A warning label placement on foods or beverages exceeding a certain level of sugar, sodium, saturated fat, or calories is mandatory. A prohibition of the use of a licensed or a brand character, or use of toys and gifts or a child-targeted imagery is implemented for counteracting the aggressive marketing of high-calorie foods and beverages for children. Warning labels with a black and white stop sign on child-targeted products are necessary to be placed. Food products with warning labels that declare them to be unhealthy are prohibited from being advertised on the television or websites for children under 14 years of age. The provision of unhealthy foods in schools is set to a limited level.
Implementation of these policies in Chile has triggered responses from all over the world. Chile has been lauded for the initiative taken to identify obesity rates as a crisis and formulating an urgent action that has been taken on the best available evidence. Since a two-third fraction of the country’s population is obese, prompt action was necessary. The root cause of the obesity problem was identified to be the excess sugar, salt and fats in processed food items and beverages. Rather than issuing advice on what to eat, the government acted by warning people on foods that should be avoided. Simple warning labels issued on the food packets ensure simplification of communication to people.
A positive influence on the food buying and consumption has been observed since the policy implementation in Chile. It is an example that other countries can follow and implement to curb the global obesity epidemic.