The Lower Chamber of Mexico’s Congress voted to reform the country’s General Health Law on Tuesday, eliminating the sale of junk food in schools and requiring 30 minutes of daily exercise for students. The law passed with 372 votes in favor and one abstention.
Congressman Rodrigo Reina Liceaga, of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional said legal reforms were only the first step toward confronting obesity, as child nutrition will only improve if families and parents cooperate. Secretary of Health José Ángel Córdova pointed out a challenge for implementing the exercise requirement: 77 percent of Mexico’s public schools do not have patios or courts where children can exercise.
The measure passed just before the arrival in Mexico City of U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, who has campaigned for better children’s health with her “Let’s Move” initiative. Obama and Mexico’s first lady Margarita Zavala de Calderón first spoke of the shared challenges faced by their countries, child obesity among them, at the White House in February.
In 2002, a study by the municipal government in Mexico City revealed that 30 percent of elementary school children and 45 percent of adolescents were overweight or obese, a problem that had barely existed 20 years before.