Puerto Rico Considers Childhood Obesity Tax



Image source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/11/puerto-ricos-controversial-proposal-would-fine-the-parents-of-obese-children/

The current rate of childhood obesity in Puerto Rico is alarmingly high; nearly 30% of children are considered obese, compared to approximately 18% of U.S. children. In response to the rising obesity rate, lawmakers in Puerto Rico have proposed a bill to punish parents of obese children who are seemingly not helping their children maintain healthy lifestyles. The proposed legislation was introduced to the Puerto Rican senate in early February and would allow school authorities to identify obese children within public schools and provide specific dietary and physical exercise regimens to their parents. Parents of obese children are “flagged” by school officials and teachers and referred to Puerto Rico’s health department. Parents and health officials would then work together to create a weight loss plan for their children. Parents are then subjected to checkups and given a timeline in which weight loss goals are expected to be met within six months; if not, parents can be fined up to $800. Attitudes towards the bill are divided. Several senators who support the bill claim that holding parents accountable for their children’s health is “necessary for society”.

Those who represent the opposition do not see parent’s failure to act as abusive or neglectful, and believe it should not be penalized or fined. Opposition is fearful that the bill represents an encroachment of the government into personal lives of families. The argument behind the bill assumes that parents are knowingly perpetuating their child’s poor health, and placing most of the blame on parental negligence.

I am against this bill and the idea of punishing parents for unhealthy children. Shaming parents and their families, by singling out their children in school and then fining them if they are unable to deliver results, is not the proper way to encourage a healthier generation. An increased governmental focus on education and awareness, with programs at the school level directly effecting children would be a more productive and humane approach to reducing childhood obesity.


One Response to “Puerto Rico Considers Childhood Obesity Tax”

  1. mindyscibilia Says:

    I would oppose this bill to tax parents with obese children. It seems that this would only stigmatize the children and parents and may not actually solve the problem. I agree the nutrition programs should be included in the schools but I don’t this is adequate to solve the problem. The children are still under the influence of their parents and in many cases subject to what their parents feed them. I think the education campaign should target parents perhaps through a media campaign, community event, or free nutritious cooking classes. Although I could not find any evidence, this bill seems like it would be very expensive and require a lot of government effort to enforce. Also if this kind of bill were to pass this could be the beginning of a slippery slope. What about cases of malnutrition and parents who don’t feed their children enough? Or parents who don’t send their kids to school?

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