Facing an obesity epidemic, governments across Latin America have enacted sweeping public policy initiatives. Taxes, mandatory labels and marketing restrictions have proliferated. However, these efforts have elicited only short-term changes in consumption, while obesity rates continue to rise. While government-mandated change has proven ineffective, a more cooperative approach between companies and policymakers is more likely to encourage long-term shifts in consumer habits.
Dietary and lifestyle changes have led to rising obesity rates in Latin America. Deaths from diseases like diabetes have become more common, public health expenditures have risen, and countries see a future defined by health crisis.
Governments across the region have responded with a series of sweeping public policy initiatives. Sugar taxes, mandatory warning labels and restrictions on marketing and retail channels have proliferated in many markets.
These efforts have had had only short-term impacts on consumption patterns. Obesity indicators continue to worsen across the region.
Change via government mandate has proven ineffective. Public policies have generated opposition, as certain categories are singled out (eg beverages) or as companies scramble to reformulate or repackage products. As a result, there is little industry “buy in”, limiting the potential for lasting change.
The only long-term solution to the obesity crisis is a shift in consumer habits. People need to adopt new paradigms on food, exercise and health. Public policy efforts aimed at forcing this change will have only short-term effects.
Cooperation between companies and governments is a better model to drive sustainable, long-term changes in consumption. Policymakers can work with companies to set regulations and establish labelling laws. Companies will innovate, reformulate and develop new pack sizes in response. Public-private cooperation on educational initiatives can also encourage moderation, promote healthier lifestyles and contribute to lasting change in consumption habits.
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