Home Institution

Ithaca College

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


The basis of this investigation came from recent evidence that the age of puberty, specifically with respect to young girls, has fallen notably in the past decade. This trend exists in Chile, as well as other countries such as the United States, and has presented itself alongside a portentous epidemic of obesity and malnutrition. Knowing the risks of both disorders, and how their affects have already been manifested in the adolescent population in Chile and the city of Arica, this study sought to develop a relationship between body mass index (BMI) and pubertal development, including the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics and physical development as well as other indications of growing sexuality, such as interest in dating and sexual behaviors. Surveys containing pertinent questions were distributed in two public schools in Arica, Chile to a total of 97 girls, ages 9 to 18. During the time of the completion of these surveys, heights and weights were also measured in order to calculate BMI. The results were analyzed and several correlations were encountered, which were then able to be demonstrated graphically. A positive correlation between reported stages of Tanner as well as age of first menstruation and BMI at time of survey was developed. The findings also demonstrated a group of adolescents sexually active, the majority beginning to have sexual relations before the age of 14, and with a notable interest in dating, even at 10 and 11 years of age. The results also supported the trend of a decreasing age of puberty, given that 4 participants were found to have started their menstruation at age 9, without the presence of thyroid or related disorders, and the average age for the beginning of menstruation was measured at 12,5 and 12,4 for the 16 and 15 year-olds. The findings suggest that BMI is related to and may influence sexual development, although more research is needed to develop a causal relationship between the two, and the many factors that influence one’s pubertal development shouldn’t be ignored. However, promotion of not only sexual education, but also proper nutrition and physical activity, should be an unquestioned public health response to the worsening problems and heightened vulnerability in the adolescent population.


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Public Health Education and Promotion


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