Puerto Rico Weighs Fines for Parents of Obese Children

A bill before the territory's legislature would fine parents if their children are persistently overweight. Fines could reach as high as $800.

Puerto Rico is considering using monetary penalties to fight childhood obesity.

A bill before the territory’s legislature would fine parents if their children are persistently overweight. Fines could reach as high as $800.

According to The Guardian, school officials would be charged with identifying children who are obese and providing educational information to the child’s parents. In severe or persistent cases, the health department or a social worker could become involved to help determine the cause of the child’s weight problem and formulate a formal plan.

If another 6 months passes without sufficient weight loss, the parents could be subject to a $500 fine. Six months later, they could face an $800 fine.

Childhood obesity has long been a problem in the territory, which has a childhood obesity rate of 28%, according to the Associated Press. That’s significantly higher than the 18% rate in the US mainland.

Still, there’s debate both on the island and the mainland as to whether such a policy would actually achieve its goals.

Sen. Jose Luis Dalmau, a proponent of the bill, told Puerto Rican newspaper El Neuvo Día that there must be consequences for parents who fail to keep their children at a healthy weight, according to a translation by Fox News Latino.

“The obese child is a health problem that can become a financial burden because the child can develop diabetes, heart ailments, and other diseases,” he said.

However, Ricardo Fontanet, MD, a local representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the policy is not the right way to fix the problem.

“It’s going to bring more problems because there are children who are overweight due to underlying issues and genetic factors,” he told El Neuvo Día.

Public hearings on the bill are scheduled to begin on Friday.