Lawmakers in Puerto Rico are debating a controversial bill that would fine parents of obese children up to $800 if they don’t make efforts to improve their child’s health.
"That child is a health issue and can become an economic burden because he/she could develop heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses," Senator Jose Luis Dalmau said to El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico's largest newspaper.
The president of the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics swiftly opposed the idea.
“This is not the way to do it. This is going to bring complications because there are obese kids due to medical conditions and other genetic factors,” Ricardo Fontanet told El Nuevo Día.
If the bill is approved, public school teachers would flag potential obesity cases and report them to social workers and counselors. The Health Department would then get involved and work with parents to determine if the child’s obesity is due to poor eating habits or other health problems.
Parents will then be given a diet-and-exercise program, combined with monthly visits from the department. After six months, officials would evaluate the child again. If there is no improvement in the child’s health in an additional six months, parents will be fined $500 to $800.
More than 28 percent of children living on the island are considered obese, compared with some 18 percent in the U.S. mainland, reports the AP.
The public hearings of the bill are scheduled to begin on Friday.
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Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.