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Joint U.S.–Mexico Workshop on Preventing Obesity in Children and Youth of Mexican Origin: Summary
and the many similarities shared between the United States and Mexico, served as the basis for the initial discussions that resulted in this workshop.
Since the 1500s Mexican Americans have lived in what is now the southwestern United States and have maintained a continuing cultural and commercial exchange with Mexico. In fact, Mexicans continue to immigrate to the United States in unprecedented numbers. As they integrate in American society, they maintain their culture but also begin a process of acculturation, that is, they adopt many social norms and habits of the United States, including those related to diet and exercise; the consequences of acculturation in obesity prevalence are intriguing and still unclear.
Although, as already mentioned, solutions to prevent obesity should be feasible within the specific context of each country, the substantial and ongoing interchange of people and culture between the United States and Mexico necessitates an obesity prevention approach that recognizes the common social, cultural, and economic factors that contribute to childhood obesity in both countries. With this in mind, the IOM, with the Instituto Nacional de la Salud Pública (INSP) and supported by Kaiser Permanente, sponsored a joint U.S.–Mexico workshop that involved researchers, public health officials, industry leaders, and policy makers from both sides of the border. The primary objective of the workshop was to explore the potential for a U.S.–Mexico binational obesity prevention strategy by considering the perspectives and experiences of various stakeholders—governments, research institutions, industry, non-governmental organizations, and communities. Other objectives included assessing similarities and differences in the prevention of obesity in Mexican and Mexican–American children, sharing policy and program experiences, and identifying data and information gaps. This workshop summary focuses on the nature of childhood obesity, its magnitude and distribution, current and future policies and programs, and data needs. This summary should not be perceived as a series of recommendations reached by consensus but rather as a recapitulation of the discussions of speakers, working groups, and individual participants.
As background for the workshop, two papers were commissioned. The first paper, “Preventing Obesity in Mexican Children and Adolescents,” reviews the factors that contribute to the high obesity prevalence in Mexican children and adolescents, provides an overview of current obesity intervention programs, and proposes actions to prevent the epidemic. A second paper, “Preventing Obesity in Mexican–American Children and Adolescents,” addresses similar topics from a U.S. perspective.