Overcoming barriers in the implementation of Mexico’s school food regulation
Mexico has one of the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the world. One in three children in the country are overweight and/or obese and one in three children born after 2010 are expected to suffer from diabetes over their lifetime. To help redress this public health crisis, the national government introduced its first school food policy intervention in 2010 which established the “Guidelines for the sale and distribution of processed and prepared foods and beverages in the national education system in Mexico,” applicable to all public and private schools. The gradual introduction of these guidelines, from voluntary to obligatory status by 2015, sought to facilitate adoption by allowing time needed to build capacity and put systems in place in schools and regulatory agencies.
Progress to date has been inadequate and disappointing, marked by little awareness of the guidelines among a large sector of school actors, a shortage of adequate education efforts and materials to inform the school community, ineffective penalty mechanisms, and lack of incentives for compliance, among other factors. As a result, energy-dense foods and sugar-sweetened beverages continue to be sold in the majority of schools, in contrast with the poor availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. There is a lack of information and qualitative research on why schools are failing to adhere to regulations, and on how some schools have achieved compliance.
This study will produce a better understanding of opportunities and challenges for improving implementation of the Mexican healthy school food regulation. It focuses on urban primary public schools in Central Mexico. It will carry out exploratory qualitative research with federal and state educational authorities, school administrators, food vendors, teachers, parents, and children, among others, to identify and describe factors that facilitate and constrain the application of the federal regulation. The project will also create and test a communications plan to enhance implementation. Finally, the project will work with El Poder del Consumidor a Mexican non-governmental organization, to strengthen strategic planning for evidence-based advocacy in the field of obesity and non-communicable disease prevention with a specific focus on healthy school food environments.