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Are Healthy Lifestyles An Inclusive Reality in Mexico?

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 09/04/2020 - 13:10

Mexico has a strong epidemiological profile regarding diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Cardiovascular diseases are the first cause of the death in the country (20.1 percent), followed by diabetes (15.2 percent). Controlling or preventing this disease could severely reduce this numbers and avoid facing other healthcare complications that would develop if not treated. For instance, diabetes can lead to diabetic retinopathy, loss of body parts or kidney diseases. Moreover, diabetes increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as obesity or hypertension, which can be transmitted through generations.

These diseases have become long-term epidemics in Mexico, which also take up the largest part of the public budget assigned for the whole sector. One of the key projects for 2020 has been promoting preventive healthcare habits, which involves having healthy lifestyles regarding food choices and constant exercise.

The Mexican government has taken on the task of implementing healthier measures within schools to foment better habits on children. One example can be found on the program Salud en tu Escuela (Health at School), which also involves many public schools to encourage promotion and healthcare among girls, boys and adolescents to maintain a healthy body, avoid risky behaviors and acquire healthy habits.

The most recent federal effort is also reflected on the new labeling standard for foods and beverages, which must include warnings about their excess of sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and calories. In states like Oaxaca, the government has also prohibited selling junk food and sugary drinks to children.

These initiatives have been celebrated due to their targeted goal, which is reducing the dangerous figures that have been threatening the life on Mexicans. However, ensuring healthy food choices can go beyond warnings as Mexico also faces large inequality gaps that can limit people’s choices for food even further. In fact, equality of income and services can also be reflected on Mexico’s epidemiological map depending on the disease. According to CONEVAL, the monthly income of almost half of Mexicans is below the well-being line, estimated at MX$2,542 (US$117.67) and MX$1,614 (US$74.71) in urban and rural areas, respectively. Poverty and the indicator for food access are highly linked with income and in this scenario, food security is threatened. This can be seen across the entire country regardless of the state or zone as poverty can be found from urban to rural zones.

Food insecurity is also found among migrant groups, indigenous populations and people living with a disability. In this case, and according to a study posted by Consejo Consultivo de Ciencias (CCC), the government must also turn its efforts toward building dietary support strategies that consider dietary modifications and supports consistent with each local food environment, considering what the environment offers and the local and regional food culture.

Additionally, according to that same study by CCC regarding the current government efforts to start changing poor healthcare habits, nutritional education is necessary in a thoughtful and conscious way. A national campaign with simple messages on current eating practices and their risks should be accompanied by work with families and institutions for permanent gradual changes.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Consejo Consultivo de Ciencias
Photo by:   Pikist
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst