New scheme fines parents for having obese children
Fat people. They’re everywhere if statistics are to be believed, with 64% of the UK’s population now classified as overweight or obese (with a BMI over 25 or 30, respectively). Now, controversial new plans unveiled in Puerto Rico could see our growing weight problem nipped in the bud-by fining parents who produce obese children.
While this might sound like a policy from 1984, Puerto Rican politicians are about to consider proposals that would see parents fined if children are classified as obese, and their condition does not improve under a state-directed regime of diet and exercise.
In 2013, 27.9% of adults in Puerto Rico were described as obese, which would be considered medium to high comparing rates across the US. However, the figure for children under the age of four - 17.9% - is the highest of all US states and territories. So in Puerto Rico, flabby children is a big problem.
Under Senator Gilberto Rodriguez Valle's plans, teachers will be told to ‘identify’ students they think are obese who would be referred to a counsellor or, in severe examples, to a social worker. Health department officials would then meet with parents and decide whether the obesity comes from overeating or a medical condition. Such as eating too much.
If food is the problem, it would be up to parents to set a diet and exercise programme, with monthly visits by officials to make sure it's being kept up. Every six months, the child’s fatness levels will be reassessed and if there is no improvement within a year, parents would face fines of up to $800 (£525).
Big boned opponents claim that this is just an extension of media hype over super skinniness, and that teachers acting as ‘body police’ will further stigmatise the overweight. They also argue that this is a purely "stick" approach, rather than one that offers a "carrot". Although an alternative view might be that more carrots and fewer doughnuts might have solved the problem earlier.
So what do you think? Is it a parent’s responsibility to keep a child within state-dictated criteria for what is, or is not an acceptable weight, or is the child’s welfare up to parents? Does the state have jurisdiction to interfere in your family’s diet, or are they simply stepping in where parents are doing a poor job? Answers on a postcard (or in the comments below…)