VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – It’s no secret child obesity is a growing problem, both here and in the US.
Puerto Rico is taking a controversial approach when it comes to combating the issue. The island territory is mulling over legislation that would hit parents with fines starting at $500 for their obese children.
“This is absolutely not an effective strategy,” says Vancouver psychologist Dr. Joti Samra.
“We know that shaming individuals when it comes to body and image-related issues are not an effective technique. That often doesn’t deter someone from engaging in the type of behaviour you’re trying to change. In fact, what it can do is reinforce some of the issues that lead to some of those problematic behaviours to begin with,” she tells us.
“Punishment, which really a fine is, is one of the least effective methods of changing behaviour. What we need to do is understand that often poor dietary behaviours and exercise behaviours come from a lack of education and real understanding.”
She argues that’s where the focus should be.
The legislation Puerto Rico is considering would see fines up to $800 for parents who don’t help their children cut their weight.
But Samra says those fines could have a seriously negative impact.
“Absolutely. A higher percentage of families that struggle economically are forced to make choices where they’re going for cheaper, less-expensive food options which often tend to be the unhealthy ones. We’re creating this vicious cycle by fining families, putting them in a situation where they have less money,” she explains.
The proposed legislation would even accuse parents of abuse if their children don’t improve.