Obesity Prevention

Obesity is one of the world’s fastest growing global public health problems. In Mexico, we used our expertise to support media campaigns that both drove behavior changes and built public support for a landmark soda tax that reduced consumption of this obesity driver. Now, we’re leveraging our experiences in Mexico to help combat obesity in other countries around the world.

2 billion people are overweight or obese across the world today including 42 million overweight children under the age of 5. Obesity and poor diet are major drivers of the coming wave of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) like cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These preventable diseases have disproportionate impact in low-and middle-income countries where 80% of NCD deaths occur. 

Approach

We partner local commitment for policy change with our team of global experts in strategic communication, policy advocacy and research and evaluation to build local capacity, optimize effectiveness and grow the evidence base for obesity prevention initiatives.

For example: Mexico is ground zero for the obesity epidemic, with one in three children and seven in ten adults overweight or obese. Vital Strategies and partners worked with Mexico’s El Poder del Consumidor to mount mass media campaigns aimed at educating people about the effects of obesity and advocating for actions to curb or reverse this trend. 

There were positive results and new laws were passed in 2013/2014 that:

  • Restricted junk food advertising on some children’s TV channels
  • A soda tax was increased by one peso per liter (about 10% of the cost)
  • An 8% tax on high-calorie, processed foods was introduced 
  • Legislation to earmark the tax revenue for safe drinking water in schools is under debate

The success of Mexico’s ground-breaking campaigns is evident in the follow-up evaluation results.

  • More than half of those surveyed saw the campaign and showed signs of new behaviors.
  • 74% reported they would reduce the number of sugary drinks they consume. 
  • 92% reported they intended to increase the amount of water they serve their children. 

During the first year of the soda tax (2014) purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages were 6% lower than would be have been expected without the tax. The reduction was greatest among households of the lowest socioeconomic status. 

Analysis by leading health economists confirms a further one-liter per capita reduction in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in Mexico during 2015, showing the continued impact of this policy.