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Childhood Overweight and the Retail Environment in Latin America and the Caribbean

  |   SUN UN Network

Factors that promote overweight and obesity are particularly concerning in Latin America and the Caribbean, where an estimated 58 per cent of adults are overweight (compared to 34 per cent globally) and 23 per cent are obese – and 7 per cent of children under age 5 are overweight, compared to a global average of 5.6 per cent.10 UNICEF’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean and select country offices have been actively engaging on the issue of childhood obesity since 2015, generating recommendations for both regulators and private actors in the multifaceted food and beverage industry.

This synthesis report builds on findings from two studies commissioned by UNICEF to shed light on the role of food and beverage distribution and promotion in the retail store environment as they influence children’s nutrition and therefore impact children’s rights. The research was conducted in six of the region’s countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico. UNICEF has chosen to focus on the retail sector because understanding the influence of marketing in the store environment is central to changing the consumption habits of families, including children.

For example, one of the studies the report highlights found that three quarters of food and beverage purchases occur in supermarkets, and half of those decisions to purchase are unplanned. The results of these studies also point out that children are specifically targeted by marketing strategies in retail stores, typically with a focus on packaging designed to attract children and by positioning these products where children are most likely to see them.

The synthesis report concludes that both governments and businesses have a responsibility as well as a tremendous opportunity to help reduce the rates of overweight and obesity that are affecting the region’s children, adolescents and families. Its cross-cutting recommendations highlight ways to limit the promotion of unhealthy food while establishing positive practices to promote healthy alternatives and greater nutritional balance.

• Childhood Overweight and the Retail Environment in Latin America and the Caribbean – English

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