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Reducing childhood obesity in Mexico

April 27, 2016

In the past 20 years, overweight and obesity rates among Mexican children have increased by nearly 40%. As with many other low- and middle-income countries, Mexico is experiencing this “nutrition transition” as a result of changes in diet, nutrition, and physical activity levels. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer, reduce quality of life, and put significant strain on health systems.

Understanding the characteristics of this new epidemic is a first step toward tackling it. This initiative built an international, multidisciplinary team of researchers who sought to better understand Mexico's childhood obesity problem and to inform relevant health programs and policies.

Research influences junk food ban

Researchers identified the availability of junk food as a risk factor for childhood obesity. Their research helped lead to a ban on the sale of junk food and sweetened drinks in Mexican schools. The project also influenced new food and physical activity guidelines in some day care centres in Mexico City.

Other project objectives:

  • develop and deliver an annual obesity short course
  • develop a collaborative program of research
  • conduct student and faculty exchanges
  • build partnerships and networking

Researchers at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico and Queen’s University in Canada collaborated on this initiative. They built research capacity in Mexico by holding training workshops and creating a new master’s program in chronic disease, obesity, and physical activity at the University of Guadalajara. The project team also established OBESIRED, a network for obesity research across Mexico. 

This project was part of the Teasdale-Corti Global Health Research Partnership Program. From 2005-2013, the Teasdale-Corti program supported 14 teams with researchers from Canada and LMICs. Teams developed, tested, and implemented innovative approaches for health and development. The Teasdale-Corti program was inspired by the incredible work of Canadian surgeon Dr Lucille Teasdale and her husband, Italian paediatrician Dr Piero Corti. IDRC and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) co-funded the project.

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