Lectureship Spotlight: Simón Barquera, MD, PhD
Published: March 1, 2017
About the Lectureship
The annual Michael & Susan Dell Lectureship in Child Health is held to recognize distinguished researchers who have made outstanding contributions to child health. The Lectureship is an academic forum to increase research capacity and partnerships within the Texas community, and to provide visibility for senior scientists in the fields of child health and obesity prevention.
Since its inception in 2007, the annual Lectureship has honored a broad range of prominent national and international child health experts, whose research areas have included healthful eating, obesity prevention, physical activity, food policy, and community and youth development. This year we recognize Simón Barquera, MD, PhD, for his work in nutrition policy and program research in Mexico.
About Simón Barquera, MD, PhD
Dr. Barquera is an MD (UAM, Mexico City) with graduate MS and PhD degrees in Nutrition Epidemiology (Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston). He is the Director of the Nutrition Policy Research Division of the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico. He is also president of the Nutrition Board of Professors and Director of the Nutrition Policy Research Division at the National Institute of Public Health, where he is the leader of the Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease research line (2015-).
Dr. Barquera has published more than 220 research papers and chapters and has over 4,100 citations to his work. He is associate editor of Public Health Nutrition and editorial board member of Global Health Epidemiology and Genomics, and is the co-investigator of the Mexican Health and Nutrition Surveys (1999-2016).
About His Work
Dr. Barquera’s most notable work is his involvement in obesity prevention research with the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico (INSP). He was a vocal champion for Mexico’s recent 10% tax on soda and other sugary drinks, and his tireless, ongoing work exemplifies the power of effective communication between researchers and policy makers.
Mexico is one of the largest consumers of sugary drinks in the world and coincidentally one of the most obese countries. The correlation between sugary drinks and obesity has been a focal point of chronic disease prevention research in Mexico. Prior to the soda tax, which went into effect in 2014, efforts to reduce sugary beverage consumption looked pretty similar to those in the U.S., with an emphasis on education and health promotion. An official healthy beverage recommendations diagram was put together with support from academia, the Mexican Office of Health, and the Mexican Office of Education. The diagram was publicized widely—it’s included in all free 3rd grade textbooks—and created major responses from both the public and industry. However, the education initiative was not moving the needle quickly enough, and the country decided to take bolder action.
The concept behind a soda tax is similar to a cigarette tax: increase price, decrease demand. Often a portion of the tax is earmarked to support efforts to further reduce the problem. For example, paying for anti-tobacco advertising or a national quit-line. Similarly, Mexico diverts a portion of their penny-per-ounce soda tax to obesity and diabetes prevention. A kind of “doubling-down” on the health impact. You can learn a bit more about the background on Mexico’s soda tax by watching this clip from our 2015 Lectureship speaker, Dr. Barry Popkin.
NGO’s jumped on board and with an alliance of funding and academic research; INSP has helped lead the way in the evaluation of its impact. Researchers, including Dr. Barquera, recently published a study projecting that a 10% reduction in soda consumption in Mexico—which is a realistic figure—will lead to 18,900 fewer deaths occurring from 2013-2022.
Dr. Barquera’s championing efforts to keep policy makers engaged and his work with INSP is influencing how the U.S. and other countries around the world deal with obesity research and food policy. This past November, the Mexican government declared obesity and diabetes a “public health emergency,” another unprecedented move that has made waves in the global public health community.
Plan to attend the 2017 Michael & Susan Dell Lectureship in Child Health on April 6 in Austin, Texas at the Blanton Museum of Art to learn more from Dr. Barquera’s work in nutrition and efforts in influencing policy makers. Details are available at childhealthlectureship.org.
Register for the event here.