ufro proyecto fonis 1

Obesity in women and childhood obesity are the fields of study of these researchers. Their work will be a great contribution to public health since they are trying to provide more information for the decision making in health in this country.

Two professors at the Department of Public Health of the Universidad de La Frontera each have been awarded a FONIS (National Fund for Research and Development in Health) project in the recent competition of CONICYT (Chilean Committee for Research in Science and Technology) and the Chilean Ministry of Health.

Dr. Teresa Balboa and Dr. Ximena Ossa will be developing important research during the next 30 months. “These FONIS projects allow us to continue with the line of research we are developing at the Faculty of Medicine. They strengthen our work in public health and will have a great impact on health policies in Chile,” the dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Patricio Valdés, said.

The project competitions in the field of medicine are each time more competitive. Around 240 project proposals have been presented in the latest FONIS competition and only 22 of them have been awarded; two to the Department of Public Health of the Faculty of Medicine at the UFRO.


Teresa Balboa, a physical therapist and doctor in preventive medicine and public health, will be responsible for the project “Comparison of pediatric nutrition assessment methods in the measurement of malnutrition caused by excess in Chilean schoolchildren”, which will be financed with about 48 million Chilean pesos. “The problem we want to approach is childhood obesity and how to measure it in our children, for being able to recommend more adequate assessment methods,” Balboa stated.

This project is dealing with the macro issue childhood obesity and some of the reasons why. “We want to determine how exact the anthropometric methods (How do they measure the children if they have a nutritional excess?) for the nutritional assessment in children are. Childhood obesity is a worldwide problem of public health and during the last 10 years the rate in Chile has been increasing. One of the problems to study it is that the methods are controverted because of the use of reference parameters of other studies or of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA.”

Against this background, the aim of this project is to compare the different methods: Body mass index, skin folds, waist size. “Nobody knows which parameter measures obesity in children and the percentage of fat the best. There are no studies in Chile yet, which determine which anthropometric parameter is more precise to determine obesity in our children. We will compare the five anthropometric methods with the gold standard, which is the bone densitometry.”

“It is easy to measure obesity in adults, but not in children, because of their constant changes of size and weight. This is why the methods are controverted: because children grow. It is a great achievement to get funds for this project,” Balboa said.


“Excessive gestational weight gain: Trend and geospatial analysis in eight years, for the design of technical orientations in pregnant women from Temuco and Padre Las Casas”. This is the name of the project the midwife and doctor in public health, Dr. Ximena Ossa, has been awarded.

This project is based on data of the reproductive outcomes from 2009 to 2016, of women who had their children in Temuco and Padre Las Casas during these seven years. “This project – with 30 million Chilean pesos for its execution – concentrates on obesity in women and we want to analyze the excessive gestational weight gain,” Ossa explained.

“The recommendations of the Chilean Ministry of Health (MINSAL) regarding the weight gain during pregnancy are based on the nutritional status of the mother in her prenatal check-ups, where they receive the recommendation not to gain more than a certain amount of weight. These recommendations are not always put into practice and there are no studies in Chile on how this weight gain should be distributed exactly during pregnancy. We want to know what happens during pregnancy regarding the weight gain according to the nutritional status, but you have to wait until the woman has her baby in order to know how much weight she gained. In addition, we want to find out how this is related to the place the women live,” the researcher added.

Obesity in women is a big problem in Chile and it is uneven distributed in our population. “In other words, and this is a fact that does not apply to men, obesity in women is significantly higher in families with a lower socioeconomic status. The reasons of this are not clear and one of the factors could be a pregnancy, since the changes of weight during pregnancy could explain the obesity. This is what we are going to study in Temuco and Padre Las Casas.”

“We want to find out how much influence the different places of residence in Temuco and Padre Las Casas have on this weight gain during pregnancy and how we can prevent directly, once we have the data. All women gain weight during pregnancy, but the problem are the women who gain more weight than recommended and we don’t have concrete data on that, yet. In 2008, a study on women in Santiago de Chile showed that only 10% of the women who start their pregnancy with normal weight maintain their nutritional status within the category “normal” until their baby is born,” the researcher explained.

“The more weight a woman has when she starts her prenatal check-ups, the more weight she will gain during pregnancy. This makes the problem even worse, but we have to do an even more precise analysis for being able to show what is happening based on real evidence. At the UFRO, we have a unique team of researchers who are dealing with obesity in women and this project is a new contribution to making these problems visual from its basis,” Ximena Ossa concluded.

Both projects just started and will have a duration of 30 months. By then, we will know much more about childhood obesity and obesity in women in the Araucanía Region.


Written by: Fabián Aguirre