The following are highlights from welcoming remarks by Juan Rivera (INSP), Mauricio Hernández (INSP), Jaime Sepúlveda (Ministry of Health), and Reynaldo Martorell (Emory University). As Rivera emphasized, the already-high prevalence of obesity in children on both sides of the U.S.– Mexico border has been increasing. The devastating effects of obesity on health threaten to increase the burden of health services and affect not only the health but also the productivity of the population. For this reason obesity is undoubtedly one of the major problems of public health in Mexico as well as in the United States.
Sepúlveda welcomed members of the audience and reflected on the decades of productive collaborations between INSP and a number of U.S. institutions—the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Emory University, and IOM—that provide the foundation for opportunities like this workshop. He applauded the participation of expert leaders from government (including executive and legislative councils), the private sector, the community, and the academic sector (see list of participants in Appendix D). Hernández and Martorell welcomed the audience on behalf of INSP and IOM, respectively, and described the organizations’ roles as public health institutions. Hernández explained that INSP’s mission is to contribute to social equity through research in public health, innovation of health systems, and the formation of highly qualified experts in Mexico. Reynaldo Martorell, a member of IOM’s Food and Nutrition Board, described IOM as a private, nonprofit organization that is part of the National Academies and serves as an advisor to the United States to improve health. As an independent scientific advisor, the organization provides unbiased, evidence-based advice to many sectors including policy makers, health professionals, industry, and the public.
Martorell, who served as chair of the planning committee, described the program and its origins. He explained the circumstances that led to this workshop:
Childhood obesity is a global health problem. Health authorities in Mexico and the United States have recognized obesity as an important public health problem and as a result have initiated the development and, in some cases, the implementation of preventative and control policies and programs.
Among the U.S. population, Mexican Americans, particularly Mexican–American women, are among the most affected by this epidemic.
The United States and Mexico share many similarities and are integrated in many respects—language, culture, food, media, and economy—