The economic impact of malnutrition, overweight and obesity in El Salvador
El Salvador has suffered this double burden of malnutrition for more than a decade. One in every 6 children is now chronically malnourished, and 6 in every 10 adults are either overweight or obese, conditions that have worrying individual and collective consequences, limiting the country’s development.
The report The Cost of the Double Burden of Malnutrition – Social and Economic Impact draws primarily on data from 2017.
“The study’s conclusions invite us to see the two sides of the same coin and are a call to action,” said Miguel Barreto, the U.N. World Food Programme’s Regional Director. “We hope that stakeholders will heed the warning and push decisively for greater and more sustained budgetary allocations to fight malnutrition and promote access to healthy food and healthy lifestyles.”
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and a member of the SUN Movement Lead Group, indicated that: “The double burden of malnutrition is increasingly affecting the poor and vulnerable, becoming yet another factor of inequality in our region.” Ms Bárcena repeated her call to countries “to make all necessary effort to move towards a new model of production and consumption, something that will be key to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
WFP and ECLAC presented the results of this report together with the Government of El Salvador (through the Ministry of Health/MINSAL) and with the support of the Central American and Panamanian Institute for Nutrition (INCAP). It is a tool that will provide key information for the government’s and national actors’ decision-making.
The report reveals that the cost of the double burden in El Salvador was 2,559.2 million dollars in 2017, equivalent to 10.3 per cent of GDP. Of this figure, 730 million US dollars correspond to productivity losses, 820.5 million to additional health care costs, and 8.7 million to educational costs.
In terms of the social cost, the study shows that 4 out of every 10 malnourished children do not complete primary school, rising to 9 out of every 10 for secondary. In addition, one million Salvadorans suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure due to overweight or obesity, with these conditions placing the greatest economic burden on the health care system.
The recommendations are aimed at building and implementing multisectoral public policies that will address both aspects of malnutrition and at increasing the budgetary allocations devoted to these public health problems. It is also essential to strengthen public-private partnerships so that they can together identify strategies that will provide an integrated approach to these conditions.