The nutritional status of children under six years old is monitored continuously by the Public Health System and in 1999 found stunting and overweight to be 1.9% and 7.9%, respectively, at national level. These numbers are monitored under the control of the public health system for 1 031 657 children. Regions X and XI respectively present the greatest prevalence of overweight and Regions VIII, X and XI have the greatest prevalence of stunting. Regions VIII and IX represent the poorest population in the country.
Children and infants, who attend the Sistema Nacional de Jardines Infantiles (JUNJI), are monitored both by the public health system and inside the JUNJI establishments. In the year 2000, stunting and overweight were 3.9% and 23%, respectively. On the other hand, in 1999 children between 6 and 8 years old, who attended the first basic year of the public school system, displayed frequencies of stunting and overweight of 4.2% and 16.4%, respectively. The prevalence of overweight is increasing progressively in the infantile and school populations.
With respect to the adolescents, studies conducted in the II, IX and XIII Regions in 1986, 1991 and 1994 showed a progressive decrease in stunting whereas overweight and obesity tended to increase in both sexes.
There is no nutritional monitoring system for the adult population, only studies conducted in Valparaiso and Santiago using Body Mass Index (BMI). A CARMEN study carried out in Valparaiso in 1996, using a representative sample of population, showed a prevalence of obesity of 19.7% for both sexes and 15.7% in men and 23% in women. Among the elderly above 70 years of age, a study was conducted in Santiago in February 2000 using BMI on a representative sample (XIII Region) and showed that underweight, overweight and obesity were 11.7%, 22.1% and 25.6%, respectively.
Iron deficiency anaemia mostly affects women who are lactating and pregnant with a prevalence of 20% and 25%, respectively.
Iodine and vitamin A deficiencies do not represent public health problems in Chile.
With respect to the food consumption, there is little data available to make an in depth analysis in reference to nourishing patterns and the health situation at the national level. Household Budget Surveys conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and analyses of the production and food availability data are currently the two main information sources on the dietary patterns. Although, areas with problems of food insecurity persist, in general it has improved in the last ten years. The present nutrition status is characterised by high food consumption, with fast, high saturated fats content and energy rich foods. The tendencies of the national consumption show an important increase in consumption of meats, salted and dried meats, milk products and a decrease in the consumption of fruits, vegetables, cereals and legumes.
The improvement in lifestyle conditions, the average population increase and the focus of the Social Food Programmes have all contributed to the improvement of food access. These improvements have lead to lifestyle changes - especially a sedentary population, which contributes to overweight and obesity.
The investments by the state in the social area are reflected by an improvement in access of portable water and sewage systems; improved access to education, with a decrease in illiteracy; and greater attention in health. Chile is highly urbanised and the consequence of modernised areas is the adoption of a less healthy lifestyle, with a prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, accidents and mental health damage.