The obesity problem in Latin America

 29-Mar-16, Global Health Intelligence

Now recognized as a worldwide epidemic, obesity is responsible for negative effects not just health-wise but also from a cultural and social standpoint – and Latin America is no exception. Obesity is the fastest rising non-communicable disease (NCD) in the world, and now afflicts over 56% of adults in Latin America – well above the global average of 34%.

As a leading indicator of future health problems, the spread of obesity cannot go unmanaged. Populations stand to gain long-term health benefits that protect them against the burden of chronic diseases.

The obesity problem in Latin America (c) Global Health Intelligence

Image: Global Health Intelligence

Eating habits, globalization, stress, and sedentary lifestyles are the root causes for the prevalence of obesity in Latin America. Drastic dietary changes are the most obvious sign of the epidemic across the region. Following in the footsteps of North American eating habits, the sale of ultra-processed foods grew by 48% between 2000 and 2013.

Sedentary lifestyles are due to the growing work constraints and busy schedules associated with urbanization, as well as the lack of space for physical activity. The double burden of malnutrition creates the unique situation where nutritional deficiency exists alongside obesity. Food insecurities and low incomes propel this double burden, such as in Mexico and Argentina.

Products that can monitor, record and display health statistics such as blood pressure, glucose levels, calories, and weight can influence behavior and reverse the effect of harmful non-communicable diseases before complications arise. These products can promote prevention through awareness by demonstrating the gradual consequences of harmful diets, which otherwise go unnoticed. With healthcare mobility solutions expected to grow by 25-30% annually through 2020, suppliers stand to benefit from introducing products such as wearables and smartphone applications.

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