In July,  Cities Changing Diabetes, UNICEF and EAT co-hosted a panel discussion “Children Eating Well in Cities: Opportunities and Challenges for Action in Latin America and the Caribbean” at the 17th International Conference on Urban Health (ICUH). 

Panel discussion: Children Eating Well in Cities

The speakers explored issues around overweight and obesity, and malnutrition, focusing on urban planning practice. Nataly Pinto-Alvaro from Rikolto and Dr Iliana Curiel, Collective Health Director and Secretary of Health, Bogotá, Colombia, emphasised the urgency to combat increasing inequalities in the region and the importance of engaging youth in shaping their urban future.

Maaike Arts, Regional Advisor, Survive and Thrive, UNICEF Latin America & Caribbean Regional Office shared some detail about the Latin and Caribbean (LAC) urban profile. Approximately 81% of the LAC population live in cities, equating to around 165 million children and adolescents. Right now, more than half of urban children and adolescents in LAC live in precarious conditions, summed up by the “urban paradox”: There is a lot of wealth concentrated in these cities, but at the same time, high levels of poverty amongst people who do not have adequate access to services and utilities. Typically what the most vulnerable sections of society do have access to is cheap, unhealthy food. Key indicators outlined in the presentations demonstrate that early signs of overweight and obesity are rising in LAC youth populations.

Gehl’s video on foodscapes showed the importance of engaging young people in the discussion around shaping their food environments. The short film showed that widely held assumptions of why fast food outlets are so popular with young people in urban settings overlook environmental aspects; for example, are these settings filling an unmet need in terms of safe social spaces?

You can watch the recording in English and Spanish here.