According to the 2010 census, Mexico is a country of slightly more than 112 million people, of whom nearly 80% live in urban areas. Forty-six-percent of Mexico’s population lives below the poverty line. Many children in Mexico are at risk of living without parental care due to high poverty rates, high maternal mortality rates and migration. According to recent UNICEF estimates, nearly 1.5 million children in Mexico currently live without parental care. In Mexico, orphaned children may live in a variety of situations: government-run institutions, religious or charitable homes, foster care, or with extended family.
Mexico is the country with the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity in children (particularly school aged children) and adults. Extra weight may be seen as a symbol of health and well-being, complicating efforts to reduce incidence of these issues.
Research suggests that environmental exposure to lead may also be a serious public health problem in Mexico. Lead exposure and anemia have a cyclical relationship. Lead exposure can put children at risk for anemia, and conversely, iron-deficient anemia can put children at risk for lead poisoning. However, over the past two decades the prevalence of anemia among Mexican children 12-24 months old has significantly decreased from 54.9% in 1999 to 38.3% in 2012.
The prevalence of diarrhea among Mexican children under 5 years old decreased from 13.1% in 2006 to 11.0% in 2012. However, intestinal infections such as amoebic dysentery are a common cause of death. For many children, illness and malnutrition occur as a never-ending cycle: illness increases the risk for malnutrition; and malnutrition increases the risk for illness. Diarrhea combined with malnutrition can weaken a child’s immune system and put them at risk for other illnesses, such as acute respiratory infections (ARI). According to UNICEF, ARI and diarrhea combined account for two-thirds of child deaths worldwide.
Low-income Mexicans often have very little variety in their diets and subsist mainly on corn, beans, and squash, putting them at risk for developing nutritional inadequacies. Babies who are breastfed are often given other fluids like formula, water, and sweetened herbal teas to treat conditions such as colic or diarrhea. As a result, baby-bottle tooth decay may be a problem in some families.
Due to environmental risk factors, common dietary practices, low food diversity and lack of access to certain foods in low-income, rural areas, children in Mexico are at risk for the following nutrient deficiencies: