The shift from malnutrition to obesity in developing countries

In the past months people from South Group did a small pilot study on underweight, overweight and obesity in a school in Cochabamba. It was surprising to see that over 50% of the kids had overweight or were obese. less than 5% was underweight. The group analyzed was between 4 and 7 years.

Although the main goal of the pilot was to just see the practical aspects of such a study and the sub objective was to get an idea on the situation, these results cannot be ignored and show that the situation in Bolivia, considered a developing country is shifting from malnourished kids with underweight to an equal dangerous problem called obesity and overweight.

What also was surprised was that 45% of the kids go to school without having had a breakfast. Furthermore 62% of the children consume cookies, or a sausage with fries for their mid morning break.

We are still working out details to scale up this research to get more accurate number and more information on this shift. What do you think? Is this really a change? What can be done about it?

Are school based doctor’s offices cost effective?

Last year as part of the CERCA project we invited several schools in Bolivia to let us open doctor´s office  once a week at their schools. The room, that normally was used as class room, office or library, turned for that occasion into a simple doctor´s office. Our physician went equipped with basic equipment such as an blood pressure device, a scale, stethoscope, a meter, vision test card and some other simple tools.

In the school a sign was put with the name of the nearest health center. We agreed with that health center that we were going a pilot project and by using the name we expected a higher level of confidence. The adolescents were also informed about the activity and they could ask permission to go to the office during class hours.

The statistics we gathered before showed that of the adolescents who went to the health center about 99% were girls that went for primary for the prenatal controls. The 1% that were boys went most often for non SRH related problems.

The goal was to make more adolescent go and see a doctor for preventive actions, especially for SRH related topics. However we did not mention that and accepted all reasons why they needed to talk to a doctor.

When we started, there was careful behavior, but later we saw that more adolescents came.


Most striking was that of the adolescents who visited, 30% were boys and 70% girls. A huge improvement compared to 1%

Also we saw that 53% of the visits were healthy adolescents who only had questions or just wanted to know if they were ok. Surprising was that 20% were because of serious eye sight problems.  2% were because of pregnancy. Then there was a versatility of other problems, ranging from respiratory problems to minor cardiac problems.


We think that this system can be of great help for developing countries such as Bolivia. This kind of preventive health care can create awareness and also tackle health problems before they really get expensive. Resource wise the costs are very limited. In most cases the doctor is already available at the health center or one doctor can attend up to 10 schools adjusting the frequency.


What do you think? Is this a good system? Is it economically effective? Or have you had experience with similar systems? Share your thoughts!

Welcome to the South Group Blog

South Group is constantly involved in different projects. Not all projects have a regular flow of scientific articles or other information that is being shared with the rest of the world. However in this blog we will write you about what is keeping us busy. Some are just thoughts and other are related with our business. We appreciate it if you can comment and share your thoughts with us.

Thank you!

South Group Team