The determinants of overweight and obesity among 10- to 15-year-old schoolchildren in the North West Province, South Africa - the THUSA BANA (Transition and Health during Urbanisation of South Africans; BANA, children) study

R Kruger, H S Kruger, U E Macintyre
Public Health Nutrition 2006, 9 (3): 351-8

AIM: To investigate the determinants of overweight and obesity among 10- to 15-year-old schoolchildren in a population in the transitional phase in the North West Province of South Africa.

METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was used to investigate weight status (anthropometric indicators) and determinants of overweight/obesity including dietary intake, physical activity and socio-economic status. A single, random sample (n=1257), stratified for gender, type of school and ethnic group, was used. Data were collected on demographics, family circumstances, habitual physical activity, dietary intake and anthropometry to evaluate weight status and body fat content. One-way analysis of variance, the generalised linear models procedure of SAS and the Tukey post hoc honest significant difference test were used to analyse the data.

RESULTS: Few children were overweight or obese (7.8%) according to International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) standards (body mass index (BMI)-for-age). These standards were compared with other accepted standard values. Both Cole's IOTF/BMI-for-age standard and the sum of skinfold thicknesses standard classified normal-weight status similarly at a level of 92% (P<0.01) and were found to be useful in determining overweight/obesity. The prevalence rate was higher in females and white children, and was more apparent in urban areas, smaller households and children of parents with low- or high-income occupations. Boys and pre-menarcheal girls had mean body fat percentage in the normal/optimal range, whereas that of post-menarcheal girls was moderately high. Few variables showed a significant association with high body fat percentage: in boys, only the number of members in the household and physical activity levels over the weekend; in girls, only age. The overweight/obese boys mostly lived in smaller households, and the overweight/obese post-menarcheal girls were most inactive on both weekdays and weekends, and more overweight with increasing age.

CONCLUSION: Smaller households, inactivity and increasing age for girls were found to be determinants that influence the development of overweight/obesity, while female gender and age post-menarche were identified as determinants of higher body fat content. For overweight/obesity prevention, the focus should be on pre-menarcheal girls, aged 10-13 years, using these determinants to identify overweight/obesity risk. Preventive programmes should aim to increase the physical activity of children to improve their current and future weight status.

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